UK health bodies urge all pregnant women to have a flu jab this winter

All pregnant women are urged to have their free flu vaccination this winter to protect themselves and their baby from complications caused by the flu virus.

Flu jab

16/10/2020

Pregnant women are more likely to get the flu because their immune system is weaker. The risk of developing complications from flu is also higher, which can make you very ill. Bronchitis (a chest infection) is a common complication that can develop into pneumonia. In rare cases, the flu can lead to stillbirth, maternal death and miscarriage.

It’s completely understandable to worry about vaccine safety when you’re pregnant. But the flu vaccine has been routinely and safely offered to pregnant women in the UK for the last 10 years.

The flu vaccine will help protect you and your baby during your pregnancy. It can also protect your baby for the first few months of life.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“We are keen to reassure pregnant women that flu vaccination is safe for women to have at any stage in pregnancy – from the first few weeks right up to their due date, and while breastfeeding. Over the last 10 years, the flu vaccine has been routinely and safely offered to pregnant women in the UK. The vaccine can also pass some protection to babies, which lasts for the first months of their lives.

“Without a vaccine available for coronavirus, it’s even more essential for pregnant women to take up the offer of a vaccination against flu this year. The flu vaccine is free and available from a range of health services, including pharmacists, GP surgeries and maternity services, who have measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

Flu and COVID-19

Some of the symptoms of flu (high temperature, cough, shortness of breath) are similar to COVID-19. It is possible to get infected with flu and COVID-19 at the same time, and Public Health England’s research shows that if you get both at the same time you may be more seriously ill.

This is why the RCOG and RCM strongly recommend that pregnant women have the free flu vaccination in 2020.  

Although there is no current evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus than other healthy adults, the effect that flu has on the immune system in pregnancy is one of the reasons that pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) as a precaution.

COVID-19 is a particular concern for women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, as they have an increased risk of become severely unwell if they contract the virus at this stage of pregnancy, as well as Black, Asian and minority ethnic women and women with other co-morbidities.

When should I have the flu jab?

The flu vaccine is normally available from September until February each year.

You can have the flu vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy. Try to have the vaccine when it becomes first becomes available so that you’re protected in time for winter. But don’t worry if you find out you’re pregnant during flu season, just have the vaccine as soon as you can.

How do I get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is free for pregnant women. Speak to your midwife or GP surgery to make an appointment. Your local pharmacy may also provide the free vaccine.

Debunking misinformation about the flu vaccine in pregnancy

Every year misinformation spreads about the safety of the flu vaccine in pregnancy. It’s completely understandable to worry about vaccine safety when you’re pregnant. But studies have shown that it's safe to have the flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy and that the flu vaccine does not cause miscarriage. It's also safe for women who are breastfeeding to have the vaccine.

Read more in our flu vaccine fact checker

Where to find more information about the flu vaccination in pregnancy

For more information about the flu jab:

If you’re still concerned

Research into possible causes for pregnancy loss is important and helps us find ways to have a healthier and safer pregnancy. But sometimes the way this research is reported in the media or discussed online can be misleading.

This can be very difficult if you’re pregnant or have lost a baby before. Talk to your midwife if you see, hear or read about anything pregnancy-related that worries you. You can also get in touch with us at Tommy’s.

Read more

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