Report reveals ‘concerning’ fact about pregnant women taking up flu vaccine

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was concerned by research into pregnant women taking up the flu vaccine which could have serious consequences.

By Reporter
Friday, 8th July 2022, 4:59 pm

Fewer pregnant women in Bucks received a flu vaccine last winter than ever before, figures suggest.

And The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was concerned by the record low uptake nationally among pregnant women – warning that getting flu during pregnancy can be serious.

The NHS recommends that all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're at, as it will protect both mothers and babies.

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File photo of a pregnant woman

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that 6,226 pregnant women were registered at GP practices in Buckinghamshire over the 2021-22 winter – with 2,557 receiving a flu jab between September and the end of February.

That equated to an uptake of 41.1% – down from 44.2% in 2020-21, and the lowest rate since comparable records began in 2013-14.

Across England, just 37.9% of pregnant women in England got the flu vaccine in 2021-22 – down from 43.6% in 2020-21 and also a record low.

For at risk expectant mothers, uptake was 51.8%, but for healthy pregnant women it was just 36%.

The UKHSA said delays in GP practices updating records following births or loss of pregnancy means the uptake rate is likely to be an underestimate.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it is possible the true uptake could be higher, but that figures are "concerning".

Dr Pat O’Brien, consultant obstetrician and vice president of RCOG, said seasonal flu is an unpredictable virus, and strongly recommended all pregnant women get the vaccine.

He added: "Developing flu during pregnancy can be serious for women and their babies because pregnancy weakens the immune system and results in a greater risk of complications and other infections, such as bronchitis than can develop into pneumonia.

“The reduction in uptake might be down to people feeling less concerned about flu last year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, or may be related to inaccurate information circulating last year about the Covid-19 vaccine and pregnancy."

Dr Doug Brown, The British Society for Immunology chief executive, added: "As a matter of urgency, we now need a focus on maternal vaccination to drive forward the work to increase flu vaccine uptake.”