Flu Vaccine Information for Pregnant women

The flu campaign for 2016/2017 ended on 30 April 2017. The next season flu campaign will launch in September 2017. 

Why do pregnant women need to get seasonal flu vaccine?

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Pregnant women are more likely to become very ill from flu due to changes in their heart and lung function. They are more likely to need admission to hospital and even to Intensive Care Unit. Getting flu in pregnancy may also lead to premature birth and smaller birth weight and the even death of a baby in the womb.

In addition infants under 6 months of age have the highest rate of hospitalisation and death from influenza.

The seasonal flu vaccine will provide protection to both mother and infant and can be given at any stage of pregnancy.

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Does vaccination during pregnancy also protect my baby?

Vaccination during pregnancy can protect your baby for up to the first six months and also prevent you getting flu and passing it on to your baby.

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Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, flu vaccine will not give you the flu. Flu vaccine contains killed or inactivated viruses and therefore cannot cause flu. It does, however, take 10 - 14 days for the vaccine to start protecting against flu.

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How safe is flu vaccine in pregnancy?

The flu vaccine has been given to millions of pregnant women.  The vaccine has been given to pregnant women for almost 60 years in the US.

Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.

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What is influenza (flu)?

Influenza is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Influenza affects people of all ages, outbreaks of influenza occur almost every year, usually in winter. This is why it is also known as seasonal flu.

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How serious is flu?

Flu is often self limiting. Healthy people normally recover within 7 days but some people recover more quickly. People who are at risk of the complications of flu will usually feel better in about 10 days.

However, flu can be severe and can cause serious illness and death, especially in the very young and in the elderly. Serious respiratory complications can develop, including pneumonia and bronchitis, to which older people and those with certain chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible. Pregnant women have also been found to be at increased risk of the complications of flu. Some people may need hospital treatment and between 200 and 500 people, mainly older people, die from influenza each winter.

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Is it cold or flu?

It can be difficult at times to tell between the common cold and flu. A cold is a much less severe illness than flu. The flu symptoms come on suddenly with fevers and muscle aches. A cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.

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How does seasonal flu vaccine work?

Seasonal flu vaccine helps the person's immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. When someone who has been vaccinated comes into contact with the virus these antibodies then attack the virus.

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How long is the flu season?

In the Northern hemisphere the flu season lasts from October to the end of April. Flu vaccine is recommended for all those in the at risk groups until the end of April Women who become pregnant at any stage during the flu season should get flu vaccine.

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Is there thiomersal in the seasonal flu vaccine?

No. There is no thiomersal in the vaccine used in the 2016/2017 flu campaign.

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How long does it take the vaccine to work?

The vaccine starts to work within two weeks.

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When should I get vaccinated?

If you are already pregnant the vaccine should be given in September/October each year and is available from your family doctor or pharmacist. In the Northern Hemisphere the flu season lasts from October to the end of April. Women who become pregnant at any stage during the flu season should get the flu vaccine

If you become pregnant at any time up to the end of April you should get the flu vaccine.

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What should I expect after vaccination?

The most common side effects will be mild and will include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur. Some people may have mild sweating and shivering as their immune system responds to the vaccine but this is not flu and will pass in a day or so.

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What should I do if I do not feel well after vaccination?

If you have a temperature after vaccination take paracetamol, as it is safe in pregnancy and it is important for you and your baby to avoid fever. Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen (unless advised by your obstetrician). Remember if you are unwell after a vaccine, it could be for some other reason. Don't assume it's due to the vaccine and seek medical advice if needed.

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Who should NOT get seasonal flu vaccine?

The vaccine should not be given to those with a history of severe allergic (anaphylaxis) reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of its constituents.

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What about people with egg allergy?

Those with confirmed egg anaphylaxis and non-anaphylactic egg allergy can be given an influenza vaccine with an ovalbumin content <0.1μg per dose.

Inactivated Influenza vaccine (Split Virion) BP (Sanofi Pasteur MSD) contains less than 0.1μg ovalbumin per dose and so can be administered in accordance with the Table below.

History Recommendation
Non-anaphylactic egg allergy without severe asthma Seasonal influenza vaccine with ovalbumin content <0.1μg per dose, in primary care, with observation for 60 minutes.
Egg anaphylaxis or egg allergy and severe asthma

Refer to hospital specialist for vaccination with seasonal influenza vaccine with ovalbumin content <0.1μg per dose.

Skin testing is NOT necessary and vaccine should be given as a single dose with observation for 60 minutes.

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When should vaccination be postponed?

There are very few reasons why vaccination should be postponed. Vaccination should be re-scheduled if you have an acute illness with a temperature greater than 38°C.

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How do I get vaccinated?

The vaccine is available from your GP or pharmacist. Please make an appointment now.

  • The vaccine is free for those in the recommended at risk groups.
  • The vaccine and consultation are free to those within the recommended groups who have a 'Medical Card' or 'Doctor Only Card'.
  • Family doctors and Pharmacists charge a consultation fee for seasonal flu vaccine to those who do not have a 'Medical Card' or 'Doctor Only Card'.

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Where can I get more information?

Further information is also available from the following links

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This page was updated on 9 May 2017