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Flu Jabs in Pregnancy

There are mixed messages about vaccinations in pregnancy but what is the official medical advice?


Posted: 5 October 2010
by Laura Lee Davies


In pregnancy you want to feel as healthy as possible, and for many women who regularly get a flu jab pre-winter (those with asthma, for example), it might seem to make sense to get their usual vaccine when the time is right. However, whilst some medicines during pregnancy are not allowable and prescriptions might need to be changed to pregancy-safe alternatives, the flu jab is one expectant mums can safely have.

The annual flu jab

In recent years, in order to protect those most vulnerable, the NHS system has encouraged certain groups to get themselves vaccinated against flu at their local surgery. It is a vaccine that needs to be administered annually because the flu virus is ever changing and therefore the mix of components (made from certain Influenza A and B viruses) requires a new vaccine each year.

The flu jab is routinely offered free of charge to people aged 65 or over, as well as people of any age who have a chronic medical condition, in particular chronic respiratory and cardiac disease. This includes those with asthma, though recently the vaccine is tending to be limited to those who have more severe asthmatic conditions unless there are other medical risks which increase the likelihood of flu affecting the patient in a severe way.

This year is the first that the government is offering the winter flu jab to all pregnant women. If you would like to be vaccinated, see your GP.

The jab is not given if a patient arrives for her injection but is unwell with a raised temperature. If this occurs the patient will be asked to attend again when she is better.<> The vaccination is also not advised for those who know they are or have been identified as having an allergic reaction to any previous vaccination or a component ingredient of the flu vaccine.

Can a pregnancy woman be vaccinated?

According to current NHS advice, it is safer for a woman who might benefit from protection against flu to have the jab than to run the risk of getting flu during her pregnancy, so the answer is 'yes, a pregnant woman can get the flu jab'.

It is preferable for a pregnant woman to be given a version of the jab which is 'thiomersal-free', which means the vaccine does not contain any mercury. However, if there is only a 'thiomersal' vaccine available this can still be given. (It is important to note that even those vaccines with mercury in are well below safe limits.)

In some cases, if your doctor feels you are not at risk (if your asthma is not severe) he or she may prefer to avoid administering unnecessary vaccines, however leaflets in your own doctor's surgery for 2010 flu jabs will clearly state that the jab is safe in pregnancy for those who do need its protection.

This year, with the threat of swine flu still present, doctors may be more likely to suggest a flu jab and it is available to all mums-to-be regardless of their current health.

If you get a cold or flu in pregnancy it is worth keeping an eye on your condition and consulting your doctor if it worsens because soldiering on without treatment is more dangerous for your unborn baby than taking medication (such as pregnancy-safe antibiotics).

If you are concerned about whether or not you should be getting the jab, call your own GP surgery or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 and make sure the person you are speaking to knows you are or you think you might be pregnant.

You can also get up to date information from www.nhs.uk/flu - but be prepared for the rather scary illustrations they use to depict the flu germs!


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