“If you’re pregnant, no matter how many weeks, you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine”.
That is the message from Cambridgeshire health experts who are urging pregnant women to get the free vaccination now.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s public health team and the Rosie maternity hospital in Cambridge have teamed up to encourage expectant mums to have the free jab – no matter how many weeks into their pregnancy they are.
Flu is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, but you'll usually begin to feel better within about a week. You can catch flu – short for influenza – all year round, but it's especially common in winter which is why it's also known as "seasonal flu".
Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and as a result flu can cause serious complications for women and their baby. Pregnant women are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell from flu and might need to be admitted to hospital, especially during late pregnancy.
The flu vaccine is the best defence against this serious illness and is safe for you and your baby. The vaccine, a quick injection in the arm, only contains killed flu viruses so cannot cause flu and is shown to be safe for pregnant women and their unborn child.
Amanda Rowley, head of midwifery at the Rosie in Cambridge, said: “One of the most common complications of flu that we see in pregnant women is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could mean your baby is born early or has a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.
“When you are pregnant, you may be less able to fight off infections which increases the risk of becoming ill from flu. The flu jab really is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu.”
Katie Johnson, Public Health Consultant at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “No matter how many months pregnant you are or however fit and healthy you may feel, it is really important to have the flu jab if you haven’t done so already. So ask your GP, pharmacist or midwife about the free flu jab now.”
Pregnant women are encouraged to get their free vaccine as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to protect themselves and their families before flu reaches its seasonal peak. It is the single best way to protect against a potentially very serious illness.
As well as getting the vaccine, practising good hand hygiene by catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throwing it away and washing your hands after can help limit its spread – catch it, bin it, kill it.
More information about the flu vaccination, including who is eligible for the vaccine, can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/. Other eligible groups who can receive the free flu vaccination include children aged 2 to those in year 5, people with long term health conditions we usually say ongoing health problems and those aged 65 or older.