Mums to be urged to have flu jabs

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MUMS-TO-BE in Burnley and Pendle are being urged to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their babies against serious complications.

This year, for the first time, all pregnant women are being offered the seasonal flu vaccination as it protects against the H1N1 virus (swine flu). Even if they have previously been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, it is recommended they still receive the seasonal flu vaccination.

NHS East Lancashire consultant in public health Dr Anthony Sudell said: “This winter, the H1N1 strain of the flu virus is one of three strains of flu the seasonal flu jab protects against. We know pregnant women who catch the H1N1 strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions.”

The flu jab is safe for mothers-to-be and their unborn babies at every stage of pregnancy. In addition it may offer the baby protection for the first four to six months of life.

Dr Sudell added: “In pregnancy, the immune system is naturally suppressed, which raises the risk of complications such as pneumonia, which can lead to premature labour or miscarriage.

“Nationally, around a third of the women hospitalised due to flu this winter have been pregnant, which shows how more susceptible they are to complications.

“I know many people are concerned about the safety of the flu jab but it is important to realise the vaccine to protect against H1N1 is created in the same way as vaccines for other strains of flu. The vaccine does not contain any live virus, so it cannot cause flu.”

Pregnant women with queries should speak to NHS Direct on 0845 4647, their GP or their midwife.

The free NHS flu jab is being offered to pregnant women as well as to people over 65, to under 65s with serious long-term health problems and front line health and social care staff. People who fall into these categories can get the vaccine from their GP practice.