With winter fast approaching pregnant women are being urged to receive their flu vaccinations sooner rather than later to help protect themselves and their unborn babies.
Last year only 44.9 per cent of pregnant women in the UK had their flu jab and, although this was up from the 42.3 per cent of the previous year, 55.1 per cent remain unprotected.
According to West Sussex County Council, pregnant women are particularly at risk from seasonal flu.
The council says full protection from the vaccine takes up to two weeks to develop and people should act now to protect themselves.
Dr Mark Lythgoe, GP and Clinical Chair at Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG said: “Most people know that flu can cause serious illness in pregnant women and in the most severe cases can put the lives of expectant mums and their unborn babies at risk.
“This is because the woman’s body and immune system is adapting to accommodate the growing baby and less able to fight off the flu virus. It is so important that pregnant women get their flu jab as soon as possible to help minimise these risks and avoid flu this winter.”
The free seasonal vaccine has been available widely since October – you can receive it at your GP surgery or speak to your midwife.
Michaela Green, who is six months pregnant with her first child, received the flu jab last week and like many others understands the importance of having the vaccine.
She said: “I was offered the flu jab by my GP and there was no hesitation from me whatsoever that I was going to have it.
“I knew the risks of not having it were just not worth it and as my baby is due in February which is the height of winter I didn’t want to take any risks.
“It was really easy to make an appointment and was over in a matter of seconds.”
Dr Patience Okorie, local GP and NHS Crawley CCG clinical lead for children and young people said: “Some mothers-to-be worry about the vaccine and its safety – the flu vaccination is safe for both you and your baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
“If you are pregnant and haven’t had your flu vaccination already please speak with your GP”.
As well as pregnant women, people with long term conditions, carers, and those aged over 65 years are able to receive a flu jab free of charge. All other members of the public are still encouraged to get their flu jab at their local pharmacy for a small fee.
You may not be a vulnerable person yourself but if you come into contact with someone who is, flu could cause them serious health implications.