The Flu Vaccine & Pregnant Women

Public Health have produced a Myth Busting fact sheet to help pregnant women understand the importance of the flu vaccination.
pregnant woman

Common myths:

1. Pregnant women have to pay for the flu vaccine. No, not true. The flu vaccine is free for all pregnant women. Speak to your GP, Pharmacist of midwife about booking an appointment.

2. The Seasonal flu vaccine gives you the flu. No, it doesn’t, the injected flu vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses so it can’t give you flu. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, some people get a slight temperature or aching muscles for a day or two. Other reactions are very rare. 

3. Pregnant women cannot have the vaccine because it is live. No, the adult flu vaccine is not live. You can have the vaccine during any trimester of pregnancy with no increased risks of maternal complications.

4. Once you have a flu jab you are protected for life. No, not true. Flu viruses change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses. Every pregnancy will require revaccination with the latest vaccine.

5. Being pregnant has no bearing on the severity of the flu should they get it. Pregnant women do not have a higher incidence of seasonal influenza than the general population but hospitalisation rate of healthy pregnant women occurs at a rate of 1-2 per 1000 which is 18 X that of healthy non-pregnant women.

6. I cannot have the flu vaccine at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine. Not true, you can have the flu vaccine at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine, but don’t delay your flu jab simply to have both at the same time.

7. The vaccine only protects the mother, there is no benefit for the baby. No, not true. Pregnant women and their baby both benefit from the flu vaccine.

The vaccine:

•  Reduces the mother’s risk of serious complications such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages  of pregnancy, benefitting the development and health of the baby.

• Reduces the risk of miscarriage or having a baby born too soon or with a low birth weight

•  Reduces the chance of the mother passing infection  to her new baby. Babies born to vaccinated pregnant women retain immunity for several months and get  fewer confirmed influenza infections.

Flu & its complications

•  The flu virus is predominantly spread through droplets, including sneezing and coughing. It can also be spread through direct contact (touch) and indirect contact (worktops, objects, upholstery)

• Antibiotics cannot treat flu as it is caused by a virus not bacteria! However if flu causes serious bacterial complications antibiotics may be given.

•   The flu virus can also be transmitted by people who are  not yet showing symptoms. 

Seasonal flu can worsen and cause:

•   Premature labour, or increase the risk of still births and miscarriages. It can also affect the baby’s growth; 

• Bacterial chest infection ( pneumonia), which occasionally can become life threatening;

•   Infection in the brain and spinal cord (meningitis); 

•  Infection of the blood that causes a severe drop in blood pressure (septic shock);

•  Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)

•  Infected tonsils (tonsillitis);

•  Fluid collection in the infected ear (otitis media);

Benefits of the vaccine

• Reduction in the hospitalisations of healthy pregnant women and deaths due to Influenza related pneumonia.

•  Reduces the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, having a baby born too soon or with a low birth weight

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