Kent women urged to get the flu jab if they are pregnant
Pregnant women in Kent are being urged to get the flu jab.
Public Health England and the NHS are advising women to get the jab because pregnancy weakens the immune system.
Catching the flu whilst expecting can cause serious complications far beyond the initial symptoms of the virus.
Dr John Rodriguez, head of screening and immunisation for Public Health England for Kent and Medway, said: “It’s extremely important pregnant women get their flu vaccination - to protect themselves and their unborn babies.
“The most common complication of flu for pregnant women is bronchitis - a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. The virus can also cause premature births, low birth weight and even stillbirths.”
Other serious complications of the flu in pregnant women include septic shock (a severe and life-threatening infection of the whole body), meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Both organisations have set a target this year to vaccinate 55% of pregnant women against the flu. Existing figures suggest that pregnant women in Kent have a lower uptake of the vaccination (43.3%) compared to all people under 65 who are at higher risk of infection (43.4%) and all people over 65 (70.3%).
Myths surrounding having the flu jab whilst pregnant can lead to some women avoiding the vaccination.
Ursula Marsh, head of midwifery and gynaecology for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, explained: “The vaccine does not contain any live flu viruses so cannot give you flu.
"Some people get a higher temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards and you may feel sore at the injection site, but it cannot give you flu.
“It cannot harm your unborn child - women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.
“It’s also perfectly safe for women who are breastfeeding to have the vaccine.
"You can also have the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine - but shouldn’t delay your flu jab to have them at the same time.”
Joanne Burns, 38, from Folkestone, is 14 weeks pregnant and had the jab to protect herself and her child from the virus.
She said: “I had my free flu jab as soon as I realised I could because I wanted to do all I possibly could protect myself and my unborn child. People think that it just won’t happen to them, but what’s the point in taking the risk?”
Pregnant women should contact their GP surgery or inquire with a pharmacist or midwife about getting the jab.
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