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U-turn on flu vaccinations during pregnancy

Government vaccination experts have reversed a recommendation on immunising pregnant women against seasonal flu.

The U-turn follows the commissioning of a report by the Department of Health, alarmed at both the controversial prospect of vaccinating pregnant women and questionable cost-effectiveness.

The department's action made it difficult for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations to proceed with last year's recommendation that influenza vaccination should be routinely offered to pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. The committee backtracked after new research showed the policy might not be cost-effective and the health department asked the Health Protection Agency to re-examine the evidence.

Committee sources said the decision to commission the Health Protection Agency was one of the triggers behind the JCVI's policy reversal.In addition, interventions during pregnancy and vaccinations were both politically highly sensitive, sources said.

Dr Douglas Fleming, a member of the JCVI's flu subgroup, said: 'There has been a rumbling debate over many years concerning possible delayed adverse effects in adolescent children whose mothers experienced flu in early pregnancy causing some people to wonder if vaccination could do the same. The committee chose to try and get clarification on this point.'

He said the JCVI largely accepted the efficacy of the US policy of vaccinating mid and trimester pregnant women likely to deliver during a period of flu activity, but the cost-effectiveness of such a policy was less clear. The JCVI has reserved judgment on the issue.

Routinely vaccinating pregnant women against flu may not be cost effective Routinely vaccinating pregnant women against flu may not be cost effective

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