Tameside Hospital midwives are encouraging pregnant women to be vaccinated against flu, and for the first time the hospital’s midwifery team is offering the jab for pregnant women as they come into the maternity unit.
Pregnant women are at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill from flu than non-pregnant women in the same age group, but less than half those who were pregnant last winter took up the offer of free vaccination. So midwives at Tameside Hospital asked to be trained up to administer the vaccine to women coming into the unit.
Tameside Hospital is the only hospital in the North West currently vaccinating pregnant women, but it is hoped that other hospitals will follow suite soon.
Last year 16,356 pregnant women from the North West had the flu vaccine, but this was only 43.3 per cent of the number that were eligible. Vaccination of pregnant women has been shown to provide protection for the first four to six months of life of the baby. Some women experience mild side effects from the vaccine, such as fever, fatigue, headache and swelling at the injection site, but these will usually disappear after one or two days.
Tameside Hospital’s midwives knew that some women were not going to their GP for the free flu vaccine, so pushed to be able to administer the vaccine within the unit as women came for their regular checkups and scans.
Tameside Hospital matron Anne Haggerty said: “We knew that some women were just not going for the vaccination as it meant another trip to their GP, so we asked to be able to administer the vaccination here at the hospital. A number of our midwives have now been trained up and we are delighted to be offering the vaccine this winter.”
Katie Dee, immunisation lead for the North West at the strategic health authority said:
“We are concerned about the risk to pregnant women from the flu virus this year. We know that the H1N1 virus will be circulating again and that pregnant women who contract this virus are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital and seven times more likely to be admitted to critical care as a result.
All pregnant women are eligible for a free flu vaccine. For more information talk to your GP, midwife or look online at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx