Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), said: “Pregnant women may be wondering why they are being offered the swine flu vaccine now, but the World Health Organization and the scientific community expect that H1N1 will be the dominant influenza strain circulating this autumn and winter so it is very important that you are protected well in advance.”
Dr Doherty continued: “While swine flu is a mild illness for most people, it can be very serious. Experience in the UK and other countries suggests that pregnant women are around four times more likely to develop serious complications as a result of swine flu compared to women who are not pregnant. These complications include pneumonia and heart and lung problems and pregnant women are about 10 times more likely to become so ill they need to be admitted to hospital.
Women who are in the early stages of their pregnancy now will be in the late stages in the winter, this is the stage of most risk and when the virus will be about again. It is important that they are vaccinated now well before the virus comes back so that they are well protected by the time it does.
All our Trust antenatal clinics are now offering the vaccine as part of their routine care, so it is easy to get vaccinated and we would urge women to take up this offer. If you are worried you may have missed out then just have a word with your midwife.”
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “The vaccine is the best way to protect the most vulnerable people in our society and I would encourage all pregnant women to get it when it is offered. Protect yourself, protect those at risk and get the vaccine.”
The PHA reminds pregnant women that the vaccination is safe for your baby. It is licensed for use in pregnancy by the European Medicines Agency. Although pregnant women and their carers are naturally cautious about taking vaccines, there is no evidence of this type of vaccine doing any harm at all during pregnancy. This vaccine has now been given to tens of thousands of pregnant women and very closely monitored, there is no evidence of harm to either the mother or the baby.
For further information:
PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.