Flu vaccine uptake among pregnant women in Hucknall and Nottinghamshire falls to record low

Fewer pregnant women in Hucknall and wider Nottinghamshire received a flu vaccine last winter than ever before, figures suggest.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was concerned by the record low uptake nationally among pregnant women, and warned getting flu during pregnancy can be serious.

The NHS recommends all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they are at, as it will protect both mothers and babies.

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency show 9,218 pregnant women were registered at GP practices in Nottinghamshire over the 2021-22 winter – with 3,748 receiving a flu jab between September and the end of February.

Across England, just 37.9 per cent of pregnant women in England got the flu vaccine in 2021-22.

That equated to an uptake rate of 40.7 per cent, down from 50.1 per cent in 2020-21, and the lowest rate since comparable records began in 2013-14.

Across England, just 37.9 per cent of pregnant women in England got the flu vaccine in 2021-22, down from 43.6 per cent in 2020-21 and also a record low.

For at-risk expectant mothers, uptake was 51.8 per cent, but for healthy pregnant women it was just 36 per cent.

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The UKHSA said delays in GP practices updating records following births or loss of pregnancy means the uptake rate is likely to be an underestimate.

And RCOG said it is possible the true uptake could be higher, but that the figures are ‘concerning’.

Dr Pat O’Brien, RCOG consultant obstetrician and vice-president, said seasonal flu is an unpredictable virus and recommended all pregnant women get the vaccine.

He said: “Developing flu during pregnancy can be serious for women and their babies, because pregnancy weakens the immune system and results in a greater risk of complications and other infections, such as bronchitis than can develop into pneumonia.

“The reduction in uptake might be down to people feeling less concerned about flu last year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, or may be related to inaccurate information circulating last year about the Covid-19 vaccine and pregnancy."

The British Society for Immunology said the Government needs to work with the NHS and local authorities to prioritise important immunisation services and learn lessons from better-performing areas.

Dr Doug Brown, BSI chief executive, said: “As a matter of urgency, we need a focus on maternal vaccination to drive forward the work to increase flu vaccine uptake.”