THE World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday gave the swine flu vaccine the stamp of approval for pregnant women, allaying fears of harmful side-effects.
An advisory group on immunisation said there had been a number of "worrisome reactions" to the vaccine but no more than for the normal flu vaccine.
From Monday, GPs will be administering the vaccine to the public, beginning with high-risk groups before moving onto the general population.
Pregnant women in their second and third trimesters make up one of the high-risk groups and account for 10pc of all patients hospitalised with swine flu.
But the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunisation (SAGE) said yesterday that any licensed vaccine was safe for pregnant women.
"After having looked at the safety profile of these vaccines, both in clinical trials and in deployment, they have concluded that the safety profile was good and recommended that pregnant women can be immunised by any of the licensed vaccines," director of the WHO's Initiative for Vaccine Research Marie-Paule Kieny said.
Dr Kieny also declared the vaccine suitable for people from six months old upwards and said it was safe for a GP to administer it with the normal flu vaccine.
Kildare GP Brendan O'Shea said there was nothing surprising about the WHO's recommendations. "It has been becoming clearer over the last six to eight weeks that this is the case," he added.
WHO said one dose of the vaccine would be enough to protect adults and children older than 10 from the virus.
Studies are currently being conducted to see whether one shot is enough for the younger age group, the panel said.
WHO figures reveal that more than 440,000 people have been infected by the virus worldwide, resulting in 5,700 deaths.
In Ireland, the spread of infection is continuing to escalate, with 9,200 people falling ill every week.
Currently, there are 109 people in hospital; 23 of these are in intensive care and 10 patients have died so far.
The HSE said around 200,000 doses of the swine flu vaccine would be going out this week. They expect that figure to double in the next two weeks, and they hope to have one million doses here by Christmas.