Pregnant women urged to get vaccinated after flu increase

Newly pregnant women in Derry are being urged to get the flu vaccine after a rise in the number of flu cases in the north.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) says there was a marked increase in the number of flu cases in the sixth week of this year in which the number of people consulting their GPs with the illness rose to 26 people per 100,000.

And now the PHA is urging at risk groups in the city including newly-pregnant women to get vaccinated.

Dr Richard Smithson, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: “We have seen a small rise in the number of seasonal flu cases. Receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting the virus.

“So, if you are in an ‘at-risk’ group, get the vaccine now – it’s still not too late.”

The PHA says pregnant women have responded extremely well to the PHA’s seasonal flu vaccination programme with over 57% having the vaccine by the end of December - exceeding the target set by the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety of 40%.

“I’m pleased to see so many women protecting themselves and their unborn babies as nearly 60% have already been vaccinated,” Dr Smithson said.

“However, I would encourage those who haven’t and are still thinking about it, to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Also, if you have just found out you are pregnant, make an appointment with your GP to get the free jab.

“We know that flu can have serious consequences for both a pregnant mother and her baby.However, there is a wealth of evidence to show that the vaccine is safe and effective at all stages of pregnancy and that it also protects both the mother and her baby for the first few months after birth – a particularly vulnerable time.”

For more information on seasonal flu, go to www.fluawareni.info