Pregnant women offered flu jab to protect against swine flu

Pregnant women will be offered the trivalent seasonal flu jab, containing H1N1 antigens, to protect them against swine flu, the DoH has said.

From September, the trivalent flu vaccine will be offered to all healthy pregnant women yet to be vaccinated against swine flu.

In a letter to healthcare professionals, the DoH said both monovalent and trivalent vaccines would be available this winter resulting in a more ‘complex' vaccination programme.

In February, the WHO announced that swine flu antigens will be included in the 2010/11 seasonal flu vaccine.

But for the first time, healthy pregnant women not in the clinical risk group will be offered the trivalent seasonal flu vaccine to protect against swine flu.

RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos warned that the advice does not include women intending to fall pregnant during the flu season.

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‘Further, [the DoH] assumes that a pregnant woman that received the pandemic vaccine in April 2010 will still have protective influenza antibody level in December and in the post-partum period,' he said. ‘We need to see the evidence that it is so.'

The latest figures show seasonal flu vaccine uptake among healthcare workers rose 16.5% to 26.4% in the last year, while swine flu uptake was 40.4%.

But the DoH letter stressed further improvement was needed: ‘It is important that health professionals protect themselves, their family members and their patients by having the influenza vaccine.'

People in the risk group aged 5-65 will be offered the seasonal flu vaccine as usual, as will all people over 65.

At-risk children yet to receive swine flu protection will be given the monovalent vaccine alongside the trivalent seasonal flu vaccine. This is because the response to the trivalent seasonal flu vaccine is uncertain in these groups, the DoH said.

Stephen Robinson

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