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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Flu jabs for pregnant women call
Pregnant woman
Flu during pregnancy can harm mother and baby
Pregnant women in the UK should be vaccinated against seasonal flu, government advisers say.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the vaccine would help protect women and their unborn babies.

The JCVI is to recommend to ministers that mothers-to-be should get the jab in their second and third trimesters.

If the government agrees, the vaccine would be offered free to pregnant women during the flu season.

The JCVI said pregnant women were at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality from seasonal influenza, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

We know women in pregnancy are more vulnerable and are at extra risk from flu
Professor John Oxford

The vaccine would also benefit the unborn child, they concluded.

Earlier this year, a subgroup of the JCVI assessed the evidence for effectiveness and safety of the flu vaccine.

They noted there was a risk of side-effects, but studies in the US where pregnant women are given a flu vaccine showed this was small.

Risk

About 10-15% of the population develop flu each year, and the infection is estimated to kill several thousand people in the UK.

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary College School of Medicine, London, said: "It's a big initiative. We know women in pregnancy are more vulnerable and are at extra risk from flu.

"We're not the first country to do it. The JCVI is trying to protect women during pregnancy and help protect the baby."

The JCVI also recommended the flu vaccine should be given routinely to people with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or those who had suffered a stroke.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said no final decision would be made until ministers had considered the recommendations.

In the past three years there have been shortages of flu vaccine for those who are already eligible.

GPs were warned at the beginning of October that vaccine delays would mean some high risk patients might not be vaccinated until December this year.

In a separate development, a study published recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggested influenza and pneumonia during pregnancy were associated with increased risk of leukaemia in the unborn baby.

The researchers at the University of California also suggested sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy increased the risk of leukaemia in the child.

The asked mothers of children under 15 if they had had infections during pregnancy.

They suggested infection in the mother could trigger the cancer years later in the child.

But experts said the study was very small and would have to be replicated in a larger population before a conclusion could be made.




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'No repeat' of flu jab shortage
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