Pregnant women are putting themselves and their babies at risk by being amongst the least likely to have the seasonal flu jab.
.Less than half of pregnant women were vaccinated during the last flu season in spite of the fact that pregnant women are more likely to die of flu than a 'healthy' person. This is because pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu, which can cause very serious illness for both the mother and her baby.
Department of Health figures show that a mere 38% of pregnant women had the seasonal flu jab last year and only a quarter of six months to two year olds in at risk groups were vaccinated last winter, compared with more than half of 16 to 65 year olds at risk.
No matter how busy you are, it's important that people should go and get the flu jab if they are pregnant, have asthma, diabetes, a heart condition or any of the health conditions that put them 'at risk'. The vaccine is available in GP surgeries in October.
Flu is an unpredictable virus. Generally for most people it's an uncomfortable illness that can come on very suddenly and severely.
Symptoms usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles as well as a cough and sore throat. But for some unfortunate people, flu can be very serious causing a spell in hospital or even death.
There is a way for people to protect themselves from flu Ã¢Â€Â“ by getting vaccinated. The flu jab is available free of charge on the NHS for all people who are in at risk groups: in other words the flu jab is free to those people who are most likely to suffer the most severe symptoms.
Those who can get the flu jab free of charge on the NHS include: pregnant women; anyone with a long term condition including diabetes, asthma, kidney disease or heart or chest problems; people undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system; people with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy; and everyone over the age of 65.
People in at risk groups are being encouraged to get vaccinated early in the flu season this year. And parents are being urged to get their children vaccinated if they're in an at risk group. It's important to know that the seasonal flu vaccine can be safely and effectively administered during any trimester of pregnancy. Having the flu vaccine when pregnant also helps protect the baby from flu over the first few months of life.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: 'The flu jab is the best way to protect yourself from the serious consequences of flu. People with underlying health conditions are at most risk of being affected badly by the flu, so I strongly advise you to get the vaccine from your GP or practise nurse. It is free if you have an underlying condition. It is best to get the flu jab early in the autumn before flu levels start to rise. To prevent the spread of flu and colds we should all make sure we use a tissue when we cough or sneeze, throw tissues in the bin and wash our hands regularly.'
Public Health Minister, Anne Milton said: 'Too many people choose to run the risk of not getting vaccinated. Put it on your list of things to do if you know you have an underlying health problem - even if you feel fit and healthy. A five minute appointment to get the jab could save your life. And a five minute appointment could save you being off work sick for five days, not being able to look after your children, or missing a big night out because you're stuck in bed.'
The Government's Director of Immunisation, Professor David Salisbury said: 'It's a huge concern that so many deaths occurred in people who were eligible to have the vaccine. The jab is free on the NHS Ã¢Â€Â“ all you have to do is make an appointment with your GP or practice nurse. There really shouldn't be any excuse for not protecting yourself or your children.'