Until now, only pregnant women in at-risk groups have been regularly offered the jab. This year’s jab, which contains swine flu antigens, is being offered to all pregnant women to protect against the H1N1 virus.
However, the department’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) recently recommended regular vaccination following a review of the evidence.
A DoH spokesperson told GP: ‘The Secretary of State has accepted the recommendation of the JCVI that all pregnant women should be vaccinated against seasonal flu on a routine basis.’
From next winter, all pregnant women will now be included in the clinical at-risk groups. As a result, GPs will receive the same pay for vaccinating pregnant women as they do for existing at-risk groups.
But the numbers requiring vaccination will greatly increase.
GP reported earlier this year that the JCVI would review the evidence for regular vaccination of this group. Published minutes from a JCVI meeting held last month show the committee had advised the vaccine should be offered to all pregnant women.
The JCVI said there was increasing evidence that flu vaccination during pregnancy provides passive immunity to infants in the first months of life.
Although estimates of cost effectiveness are broad, there are ‘clear health gains’ to pregnant women from flu vaccination. This is because pregnancy is an established risk factor for complications from influenza, particularly from the H1N1v strain that may continue to be a major circulating strain, it said.
The JCVI also noted that other clinical risk groups are offered the vaccine without cost effectiveness assessment.
The committee added: ‘Offering influenza vaccine routinely to all pregnant women could lead to increased uptake of the vaccine by pregnant women with additional risk factors who may be avoiding vaccination because of their pregnancy.’
The decision will be officially announced in the CMO’s 2011/12 flu season letter usually published in March.