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15 May 2014

Pregnant women urged to get flu vaccine

WA Health is encouraging pregnant women to take advantage of the free influenza vaccine to protect themselves and their baby.

The World Health Organisation singles out pregnant women as the most important risk group for seasonal influenza vaccine. While free influenza vaccine has been available for pregnant Australians since 2009, uptake has been poor.

Dr Paul Effler from WA Health's Communicable Disease Control said that although vaccination rates were improving, only 41 per cent of pregnant women in WA had the influenza vaccine in 2013.

"Knowing the vaccine is safe is an important consideration for pregnant mothers. Not surprisingly, uptake is higher among women who believe the vaccine is safe for themselves and their babies," he said.

"What many people don't know is that if the mother has the flu vaccine, the baby is also protected until it's about six months old."

In a 2013 post-vaccination survey of 3173 women, no serious vaccine-related adverse reactions were reported.

"Some women experienced swelling at the injection site, a headache or some fatigue, but nothing more serious," Dr Effler said.

The survey also revealed that pregnant women would have had a flu shot if their antenatal carer recommended it.

"We are encouraging GPs and other health professionals to be proactive in recommending vaccination to pregnant women," Dr Effler said.

"Most midwives and community health nurses as well as GPs are able to administer the vaccine and we'd like to see all health care providers recommending immunisation to pregnant women."

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