Experts on flu in the UK have advised the Department of Health to add pregnant women to the list of people who are usually given the influenza vaccine.
This recommendation has come from the influenza sub-group of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), and they have explained that the vaccine would help in protecting women and their unborn children. The subgroup have further explained that mothers-to-be should ideally get the vaccine shot during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters especially if their delivery is expected around the time of the flu season.
It was reported that this move has not yet got the approval of JCVI leaders and the ministers. They explained that that the flu vaccine is currently offered everywhere to generally and also to certain risk groups such as people with diabetes and respiratory disease. Many experts are also of the opinion that the vaccine should be extended to risk group of people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
It was mentioned that the vaccine, if approved would be made available from 2007. It was also mentioned that last year there was a shortage of flu vaccines even for those who were eligible. Simon Kroll, professor of paediatrics and infectious diseases at Imperial College, London, who also leads the subgroup said, "The majority of published work showed that pregnant women are at higher risk of mortality and morbidity in influenza pandemic years.In addition to the risk of influenza infection to pregnant women, there may be potential benefits in maternal vaccination to the foetus or newborn."
It was noted by the sub group that there was a risk of side effects, but analysis done in the US, where pregnant women are given a flu vaccine showed that this threat was small. They have recommended that women who are over three months pregnant and those who are due to give birth between November and March should get the vaccine.
Statistics have shown that an estimated several thousands of people in the UK, die, each year due to flu affecting 10 to 15% of the population each year. Rosie Dodds, of the National Childbirth Trust, said, "Pregnant women are at greater risk of contracting infections because there immune system is compromised by being pregnant. But I think if this does happen the risks of side effects will need to be fully explained to women so they can make a choice as there are some vaccines pregnant women are advised not to have."
Spokesman from the Department of Health has said that they are still awaiting the JCVI decision, which is expected later this year.