HSE urges pregnant women to protect themselves against flu, COVID-19 and whooping cough this winter

HSE Press Release
Thursday, 16 November 2023
  • Vaccines offer protection against serious illnesses to expectant mothers and their unborn baby

The HSE is urging all pregnant women to get the flu, COVID-19 and whooping cough vaccines to offer themselves and their babies the best protection from the viruses this winter. The vaccines are available for free from participating GP practices and pharmacies.

Dr Aparna Keegan, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE National Immunisation Office says: “The flu, COVID-19 and whooping cough vaccines are safe and highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation, and complications related to these infections. The protection they offer not only benefits the pregnant mother but also extends to the developing baby and provides crucial safeguarding in the early most vulnerable months of a child’s life.”

Developing flu can be very serious for a small number of pregnant women and their babies, and can leave women at greater risk of complications such as bronchitis - a chest infection that can develop into pneumonia. In rare cases flu infection in pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, maternal death and an increased risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women have also been prioritised for the autumn COVID-19 booster as they are at increased risk of severe COVID-19, and serious infection can put their babies at risk of being born prematurely.

Pregnant women can get the whooping cough vaccine between week 16 and 36 of pregnancy. Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is highly contagious and can be life-threatening for babies. The vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce high levels of antibodies to the whooping cough bacteria. These antibodies will also pass to your baby in the womb and protect them during the first few months of life and will protect you and your baby from whooping cough.

Dr Keegan added: “We strongly urge all pregnant women to boost their immunity this winter and get vaccinated. You can get the flu, COVID-19 and whooping cough vaccine at the same time.”

Extensive research and clinical evidence show that vaccines are safe for pregnant women, both the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control strongly endorse the use of vaccination to protect pregnancy mothers. The vaccines given to pregnant women are made with inactivated or non-live components, which means they are safe for both the pregnant and the child.

If you have any questions about vaccines you can speak to your midwife, obstetrician or GP so you can get all the facts and make the right decision for you. For more information visit Vaccines needed during pregnancy.

Last updated on: 16 / 11 / 2023