15 December 2014

Following a national report published last week showing that 38 women died from flu in the UK in three years (2009 to 2012), pregnant women in Northamptonshire are reminded to make sure they get a flu vaccination.

National report

The report by Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK (MBRRACE-UK) on national maternal deaths was published on 9th December and shows how fatal the flu virus can be for pregnant women.

It shows that amongst those women who died in, or shortly after, pregnancy, between 2009 and 2012, flu was the cause of death in one in 11 pregnant women.

Why get a flu vaccination?

Pregnant women are at increased risk of serious complications and death from flu compared with other healthy adults. Flu can also affect the pregnancy, leading to stillbirth, prematurity and low birth weight.

Flu can also be serious for new-born babies, who cannot be protected themselves by vaccination, but gain some protection if their mother is vaccinated in pregnancy. The mother’s antibodies from the vaccine help to prevent serious infection from flu for the baby in first few weeks of life. They are also less likely to catch the virus from a vaccinated mother.

For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant disease which only lasts for around a week. However for older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with a health condition (particularly chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease or those with a weakened immune system) flu can have more serious effects. As a result these groups are offered a free flu vaccination by the NHS.

Since 2013, two and three-year-olds have been eligible for flu vaccination with a newly available nasal spray, and this year the spray is also being offered to four-year-olds.

Councillor Robin Brown, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing said: “I urge all pregnant women to make sure they get a flu vaccination to help protect themselves – and their babies - from this nasty virus and avoid the increased risk of complications arising as a result of flu.

“It’s not a live vaccine and it cannot give you flu, but despite this 64% of pregnant women in Northamptonshire have not had the flu vaccine yet this winter. I hope all pregnant women, and anyone else who is eligible, gets their free flu vaccination as soon as possible. Just contact your GP or pharmacy to make an appointment.”