UK health bodies are urging all pregnant women to have their free flu vaccination this winter to protect themselves and their baby from complications caused by the flu virus.
As there are less COVID-19 restrictions in place this year, we are all mixing more and spending more time together indoors. While the flu and the COVID-19 virus are both circulating, getting the flu vaccine will reduce your chances of becoming seriously ill.
The NHS also recommends that you have the COVID-19 vaccination (a first and second dose), if you haven’t had this already. 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.
Pregnancy and the flu
Most people who get the flu usually experience mild symptoms and recover relatively quickly. However, developing flu can be very serious for a small number of pregnant women and their babies.
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.
Having the COVID-19 vaccination
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated their advice on 16th April 2021, stating that all pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.
This has been shown to be the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended at any stage of pregnancy.
Pregnant women should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines where possible.
This vaccine is free and you can book it at any time.
Vaccination is recommended in pregnancy, but the decision whether to have the vaccine is your choice. The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists have a decision aid that you can use to make an informed choice.
Having the flu vaccination
The flu vaccine is normally available from September until February each year. You can have the flu vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy.
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if you're pregnant
- a hospital appointment.
Do I need the COVID-19 booster?
The COVID-19 booster vaccination is recommended to all eligible pregnant women, including health and social care workers and those with underlying medical conditions. The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than six months after the second vaccine dose.
Can I have the COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine at the same time?
The COVID-19 vaccines or booster can be given at the same time as the flu jab or the whooping cough vaccine. Sometimes it will not be possible to have the vaccines together for logistical reasons.
If they aren’t given together, you can get both vaccines at any time. Some people choose to separate the vaccines by a few days at least to avoid confusion over any side effects.
Find out more about the booster vaccine and the eligibility criteria.
Misinformation about vaccinations in pregnancy
There is a lot of misinformation about vaccination in pregnancy. It’s completely understandable to worry about vaccine safety when you’re pregnant, but studies have shown that these vaccinations are safe.
Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine in pregnancy.
Read more in our flu vaccine fact checker and debunking the myth that the flu jab causes miscarriage.
Find out more: nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.
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.