Pregnant women in Lincolnshire are being urged to get all of their vaccinations this winter, in order to get the best protection from the viruses for themselves and their baby.
For women who become pregnant it gets harder to fight off infections and this means they are at greater risk from becoming seriously ill with covid - especially in their third trimester – and also from flu, with both capable of causing complications for mother and baby.
“In line with the JCVI’s (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) advice that pregnant women are more at risk of severe covid, we are strongly encouraging pregnant women in Lincolnshire to have a covid autumn booster, particularly since covid is circulating and will likely increase in numbers over winter,” explains Dr Sunil Hindocha, GP, Portland Medical Practice, Lincoln.
“Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect you and your baby from covid. The covid vaccination is safe and is recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives. You can be vaccinated at any time during pregnancy and can get a covid autumn booster provided it is at least 91 days since your last covid vaccination.”
The NHS is keen that pregnant women and their families have all of the information they need about the covid vaccination, as well as the flu vaccination.
“Similarly to having the autumn covid booster, getting your flu vaccination will also protect you and your baby from serious illness,” adds Dr Hindocha.
“The thing to remember with flu is that the virus that causes flu changes every year. This means the flu, and the vaccine, may be different from the previous year and this is why it’s important to get your flu
vaccination every year.”
There is evidence to show that, if you are pregnant and catch flu, you have a higher chance of complications, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.
“One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, which is a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. Getting flu whilst pregnant could also cause issues for your baby and may increase the need for admission to intensive care for you and your baby,” said Dr Hindocha.
Add to this the fact that the flu virus spreads easily, that more people will be mixing indoors, and a higher number of flu cases are expected this winter, and it is clear why it is really important to get vaccinated.
“Like the covid autumn booster, you can have a flu vaccination during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. Women who have had a flu vaccine also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives,” said Dr Hindocha.
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts circulating, although if you miss this you can still be vaccinated later in the winter.
“In addition to getting flu and covid vaccinations, pregnant women should also get the whooping cough vaccination, since whooping cough can be very serious for young babies. If you are pregnant, you can help protect your baby by getting vaccinated, ideally from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks pregnant.
“If for any reason you miss this window, you can still have the whooping cough vaccination until you go into labour and the immunity you get from the vaccine passes to your baby through the placenta and protects them until they are old enough to be vaccinated at 8 weeks old,” concluded Dr Hindocha.
If you get a text or email inviting you to book an appointment for your covid autumn booster you can do this online using the National Booking System or by calling 119. Or you can wait to be contacted by your GP.
For a flu vaccination you should contact your midwife of GP surgery to find out where you can get a flu vaccine. It’s a good idea to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available and GPs in Lincolnshire have their flu vaccine supply now. In some areas you can get a flu vaccine at an antenatal clinic. In others, you will need an appointment at a GP surgery or a pharmacy that the offers the flu vaccine.
The whooping cough vaccination is usually given between 16 to 32 weeks by your GP practice or midwife. If you are in week 16 of your pregnancy and haven’t heard from your midwife or GP practice, you should contact them to arrange an appointment at the earliest opportunity.
For more information visit on the flu vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.
For more information on the covid vaccination visit the National Booking System and for more
information on the whooping cough vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keepingwell/whooping-cough-vaccination/