Seasonal flu jab extended to pregnant women this winter

Pregnant women may be regularly offered the seasonal flu vaccine, the DoH has said.

Pregnant women at higher risk (Photograph: Rex Features)

For the first time, this year's seasonal vaccine, which contains swine flu antigens, will be offered to pregnant women to protect them against the H1N1 virus.

The DoH's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is considering whether pregnant women should be included in at-risk groups for future seasonal flu vaccination campaigns.

Evidence shows pregnant women are at higher risk of severe disease and hospitalisation from H1N1.

If the JCVI recommended regular seasonal vaccination of pregnant women, the DoH and other authorities would decide if this was cost-effective.

Launching this year's vaccination programme, Professor David Salisbury, DoH director of immunisation, said emerging evidence suggested vaccinating pregnant women may also protect infants after birth.

Over 14.4 million people are expected to be vaccinated in this season's programme.

The DoH does not expect the inclusion of swine flu antigens to affect uptake, despite fears patients who rejected last year's swine flu vaccine may refuse the seasonal jab as well.

Professor Salisbury said turning down the seasonal flu vaccine because of concerns over the swine flu component would be 'foolhardy'.

'To be ignoring vaccination because of prejudice about swine flu is putting yourself at unnecessary risk,' he said.

He revealed the JCVI had decided vaccinating healthy children under five years old was 'inappropriate' as many will already have immunity to swine flu, either through receiving the vaccine or because they had been infected.

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