70% of pregnant women remain unvaccinated – is enough being done?
The Guardian reports that almost three-quarters of Britain’s pregnant women have still not received the flu jab this winter, according to Andrew Lansley, the health secretary. He has said that although the number of expectant mothers who have received the seasonal flu injection had almost doubled this year, more than 70% remain unvaccinated.
The number of mothers-to-be who have died from flu this winter is said by him to be “between one and four”. Lansley declined to give a more detailed figure “in order to safeguard the confidentiality of the patients concerned”.
The combined swine flu and seasonal flu jab – which protects against H1N1 swine flu and the Influenza B strain – has been given to 27% of expectant mothers this year, compared to 14.5% a year ago. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to infections because their immune systems are suppressed.
This year, the Department of Health told GPs to include pregnant women as an “at-risk” group, along with those aged over 65, cancer sufferers and those with heart problems and respiratory conditions. Although GPs have noticed an increase in the number of pregnant women getting the jab, it is believed that many are still reluctant because of concerns over the safety of the vaccine.
With the news that tens of thousands of pregnant women currently remain unvaccinated, questions will be raised as to whether enough is being done to advertise the necessity of the flu jab.
On Thursday, the number of confirmed deaths from flu this winter rose by 62 to 112, most of whom died from swine flu.
Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.