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Pregnant women urged to get flu jab as report finds one in 11 deaths due to flu

Flu was the cause of death in one out of every 11 women who died during, or shortly after, pregnancy between 2009 and 2012, a new report has revealed.

A total of 36 pregnant women died with flu strains that the current vaccine protects against during the three-year period, which included the influenza pandemic of 2009/10, a report citedled by a team of academics, clinicians and charity representatives called MBRRACE-UK and cited by Public Health England found.

Latest monthly flu vaccination uptake figures released last month showed that only 30% of women had received the jab by the end of October, although there had been an encouraging 4.2% increase in uptake compared with the same period last year.

The most recent weekly data now show that figure has now risen to 38%, but according to Public Health England (PHE) the proportion unvaccinated pregnant women is still of ‘great concern’.

Professor Maria Zambon, director of PHE’s reference microbiology centre, said: ‘Flu is now largely preventable for pregnant women and their babies, because a free, safe and effective vaccination is offered from the NHS.

‘The vaccine is not a live vaccine and it cannot give you flu. Despite this, around 60% of pregnant women in England have yet to get the flu vaccine this winter – and this is of great concern.’

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, stressed that flu vaccination also minimises the effects of flu in pregnancy and reduces the risk of complications.

Dr Ramsay said: ‘Getting flu during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth or having a low weight baby. Having the vaccination reduces the chances of getting flu, which in turn means the risk of these complications is significantly reduced.’