Pregnant women across Scotland are being urged to take-up the offer of the free flu vaccine to protect themselves and their baby ahead of the winter flu season.
As the flu vaccine is delivered to GPs across the country, pregnant women are being reminded that catching flu can have serious consequences for expectant mothers.
When you’re pregnant, your immune system adapts to protect both you and your baby. This means you have an increased risk of experiencing serious complications from the flu virus which can result in being admitted to hospital.
Being immunised against flu can help mums-to-be take a positive step towards avoiding catching flu and passing the virus on to their unborn baby. Evidence also shows that the vaccine can help to protect your baby for up to 3 months after birth.
Director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, Gillian Smith, emphasises the importance of getting the jab and its benefits. She said: “I’d encourage all women to get vaccinated during pregnancy to protect themselves as well as their unborn babies from the flu virus. The vaccination itself only takes a few seconds yet it offers protection from flu for around a year. Flu during pregnancy can cause serious complications so it’s really important that expectant mothers take this step in order to reduce their risk of being affected.”
For expectant mothers, the health of their baby is always top-of-mind so it’s normal to have concerns over taking medication during pregnancy. Don’t fear – the flu vaccine is safe to have during any trimester.
Even if you received the flu jab last year, it’s important that you’re vaccinated again this year as the vaccine changes annually to protect against new strains of the virus which may be circulating. Once you’ve received the flu vaccine, it will take around ten days to work and will protect you from flu for around a year.
Over the next few years the seasonal flu programme is being extended to include all children and young people aged 2-17, principally delivered through GP practices for pre-school children and primary and secondary school-aged children. This year all 2 and 3 year olds in Scotland are being offered the vaccination in the form of a nasal spray. Getting your child vaccinated will protect them and also reduce the risk of spreading infection in your household to other family members who may be vulnerable or have lowered immunity, such as grandparents.
Children aged 2 and 3 will be offered the Fluenz vaccine at their GP surgery, which comes in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the use of needles. Some primary school-aged children will also be offered the vaccine this year by community nurses within their own school.
Once the full programme is up and running around one million children will be vaccinated annually against flu in Scotland.
So stay happy and healthy this winter by protecting yourself, your unborn baby and any 2 or 3 year olds in your household from flu. To find out more about receiving the free flu vaccine make an appointment with your GP practice or have a chat with your midwife.
If you would like more information about the flu vaccination programme, visit www.immunisationscotland.org.uk or call the NHS Inform helpline 0800 22 44 88
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