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Pregnant women offered flu jab while they get scan
PREGNANT women are being offered flu vaccinations at the same time as their baby scans to try to protect hundreds more mums-to-be.
NHS Oxfordshire, the primary care trust, hopes that take-up in the county will be improved by offering the free vaccination without a need for a separate appointment at a GP surgery.
Following the swine flu outbreak of 2009, pregnant women were added to the high risk category of those needing free flu jabs on the NHS, as they are more susceptible to the symptoms.
The jab protects mother and baby against flu, and the protection lasts into the first few months of a baby’s life.
It comes after a pilot at the JR last year.
Immunisation manager Rosemary de Wilde said: “We wanted to make it really easy for pregnant women to access a flu jab and last year’s scheme showed women appreciated the convenience of getting the jab as they waited for another appointment.
“The aim was to complement what the GPs offer.”
She added that previously nurses gave the jabs but under the new scheme they would be administered by midwives.
In 2011/12, 3,505 pregnant women – about 34 per cent – in Oxfordshire were immunised. This year the aim is to reach the 70 per cent mark and is a World Health Organisation target.
Of that 3,505, 266 women were immunised against flu at the John Radcliffe when they went for their scans last year during a seven-week pilot. This year the initiative runs for 13 weeks and aims to reach 1,000 mums-to-be.
During pregnancy, the immune system is naturally suppressed, meaning that women are more likely to catch flu and if they do catch it they are more likely to develop complications.
Complications can include pneumonia, a difficulty breathing and dehydration, which are more likely to happen during weeks 14-26 of pregnancy (second trimester) and weeks 27-birth (third trimester).
However, the immune system is still working and the risk of complications is small. Most pregnant women will have only mild symptoms of H1N1 flu and recover within a week. But there is evidence from previous flu pandemics that pregnant women are more likely to develop complications. If a pregnant woman develops a complication of H1N1 flu, there’s a small chance that it will lead to early (premature) labour or miscarriage, but it’s not yet known how likely these risks are.
Dr Tony Berendt, deputy medical director for Oxford University Hospitals Trust, said: “We have set up this service across the JR and Horton sites because it’s so important that pregnant women get the flu jab. Flu in pregnancy is serious – for the mum-to-be, whose immunity is reduced by pregnancy, for the pregnancy, with more chance of losing the baby; and for the newborn baby, which can be affected if the pregnant woman becomes seriously ill. The flu jab protects her and her baby. It only takes a couple of minutes, and it’s safe and simple.”
Mums-to-be can safely get a flu jab at any stage of their pregnancy and women who prefer to get their jabs from their GP can still do so.
Laura Carter, 29, from Cowley, who got her flu jab at the John Radcliffe yesterday said: “Having the flu jab at the JR just makes sense when you are having your scans. If it’s there and it’s free I would have thought most people would get it done.
“It does protect the babies as well and that’s the reason I got it today.”
All pregnant women are offered two scan appointments during their pregnancy, a dating scan at 11-12 weeks and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks.