Tuesday 20 March 2018

Pregnant women at risk of flu because of high vaccine costs

Rhona Mahony Photo: Anthony Woods
Rhona Mahony Photo: Anthony Woods
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 40 pregnant women suffering from flu had to be admitted to the National Maternity Hospital over the course of five years.

The flu can lead to serious complications for mothers and babies. It is recommended that all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they are at.

However, a new study shows just one-third of 504 pregnant women who were looked at over two weeks had the jab.

The cost of getting the vaccine for women who do not have a medical card may be contributing to the low take-up.

The researchers, who included the hospital's master Dr Rhona Mahony, found the average gestational age for those who had the jab was at 20.9 weeks.

Pregnant women have a higher risk of developing complications from the flu including bronchitis.

They also have a higher chance of blood infection and inflammation of the brain.

Their unborn baby may also be born prematurely, have a low birthweight or suffer a stillbirth.

The research by the Department of Obstetrics in UCD and the National Maternity Hospital found 42 women were admitted with the virus between 2010 and 2015.

It found that 139 women who did not have the vaccine were unaware that it was recommended in pregnancy. The under-30s were less likely to have the vaccine than older mothers.

The uptake was also lower among women in public care compared with those who were using health insurance, 48.8pc of whom had the jab.

The doctors said that women with medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes should be encouraged to receive the vaccine.

"One reason for lower uptake rates in the Republic of Ireland may be that there is a charge for the vaccine for the majority of women," doctors wrote in the 'Irish Medical Journal'.

They called for a sophisticated public health campaign to promote the safety of the vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.

The HSE should also consider the introduction of a free flu vaccination programme for all pregnant women to increase uptake rates, they added.

Viruses change every year and it is necessary to have a vaccine injection annually.

Irish Independent

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