Midwives in maternity services across Somerset are offering the free flu vaccine when they see pregnant women at ante-natal clinics, scans and other appointments.
The new service follows a successful pilot at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton last year which almost doubled take-up.
During the winter, nearly 80 per cent of pregnant women using maternity services received a flu vaccination whether by a midwife at the hospital or at their GP surgery. This was compared to just 44 per cent of all pregnant women across Somerset in 2016/2017. The England average was 44.9 per cent.
Flu is highly infectious and can seriously harm or even kill pregnant women and their unborn babies who are more vulnerable to the infection. However, fewer than half get the vaccine despite it currently being offered for free by GP surgeries and pharmacies.
Trudi Grant, Somerset Director of Public Health, Somerset County Council said:
“Getting vaccinated significantly reduces the risks and I would urge all pregnant women to go and get their free vaccination now before the virus starts circulating in winter.
Flu is more serious in pregnancy because a woman’s immune system is naturally weakened, meaning she is less able to fight off infections. The virus can cause serious health problems and even death for pregnant women and their unborn children who are much more vulnerable.
Getting vaccinated can be done easily through their GP, pharmacist and now by the new convenient maternity services where possible. The side effects of the flu vaccine are mild compared to having the disease itself.”
Debra Young, head of midwifery at Musgrove Park Hospital said:
“We are very pleased that four in five women who gave birth under the care of our maternity services last winter got protected against flu by having a vaccination.
Our team of midwives have been working really hard to make women aware of the serious complications that getting flu could have on them and their unborn baby.
Many women have told us that they really like the convenience of being able to have their flu vaccination at their regular midwife appointment so I am pleased that we can offer this again during the coming months.”
Some of the other NHS trusts agreeing to offer the new service from this month are Royal United Hospitals in Bath, the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Pregnant women are one of the target groups along with the following:
- People aged 65 years of age or over
- People with certain medical conditions
- Those living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- People who receive a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- Children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
- Children aged two and three
- Children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four
GPs will continue to offer the free flu vaccine to pregnant women and other people in eligible groups including anyone aged over 65, young children and anyone with an underlying health condition. This additional service will also improve patient choice and access to this immunisation.