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Flu jab 'essential' for pregnant women this winter

All pregnant women are being advised to get a flu jab as soon as possible to protect their babies and themselves.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) say the free vaccination is particularly important this year because of Covid-19.

Influenza is dangerous to people who are pregnant and can be deadly.

Health experts are also concerned a combined outbreak of coronavirus and flu could overwhelm health services.

Why should pregnant women get the flu jab?

Though most people recover relatively quickly from flu, pregnancy can change the way the human body handles a viral infection.

In rare cases, flu can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of the mother.

"Flu can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies and leaves women at higher risk of complications and, in some cases, can develop into pneumonia," says Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

"That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible, so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter."

The RCM is also urging all midwives and maternity support workers to get vaccinated - to help protect the families they care for.

Both the World Health Organization and the NHS are worried about the 'double danger' of flu and coronavirus this winter.

Scientific research shows getting both diseases at the same time can be serious and may be deadly.

A significant flu season would put extra pressure on health services which already have to the manage the pressures caused by Covid-19 patients.

To avoid that additional pressure, more people are being offered a free flu vaccine this year: anyone over 50 in England is eligible, although people over 65 with health conditions will be prioritised.

The government says there is enough flu vaccine for 30 million people.

Who will be offered the flu vaccine in England?

  • people who were required to shield from coronavirus and anyone they share a home with

  • people with some medical conditions, including diabetes, heart failure and asthma

  • pregnant women

  • pre-school children over the age of two

  • all primary school children, as last year, and, for the first time, Year 7 pupils

  • initially all people over 65, before the programme is extended to the over-50s

  • healthcare and social care staff

  • people living in a residential or nursing home

  • people who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person

  • The NHS will make contact with those who are eligible.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are also running flu campaigns.

People who are not eligible for a free jab can pay for one at pharmacies and supermarkets, although availability is limited at present while stocks are prioritised for those who need it the most.


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