Half of pregnant women will refuse swine flu vaccine

Almost half of pregnant women say they would refuse to take the swine flu vaccine, suggesting many are worried about the safety of the jab, according to a new poll.

Expectant mothers have been designated as one of the priority groups to be given the injection because they are more likely to develop complications if they do catch the virus.

There have been 66 deaths have been linked to swine flu in Britain since the outbreak began in April, including at least two pregnant women.

But almost half, 48 per cent, of pregnant women who responded to a poll by Mumsnet, the website, said that they would probably or definitely not have the jab once it is available.

Only six per cent said that they definitely would have the vaccine, while another 22 per cent said that they probably would.

The study also reveals that many women do not plan to have their children vaccinated.

In total 46 per cent of those with children aged under five said that they probably or definitely would not take their children to receive the vaccine.

Again small numbers said that they would definitely want their child to be vaccinated, just five per cent, while 22 per cent said that they probably would.

The labour Government has received the first batches of the vaccine but it is still being tested in scientific trials.

Regulatory agencies expect to have analysed the safety data and licensed the vaccine for use by October, at which point vaccinations can begin.

However, no decision has been made at this stage on whether everyone will be given the jab.

Officials have designated priority groups, including pregnant women, “at risk” children and adults with underlying health problems and healthcare workers who will receive the vaccine initially.

The poll follows claims that children vaccinated in the first weeks could be given a vaccine only tested on adults.

Doctors have also been ordered to monitor whether the vaccine triggers a neurological disease, called Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can be deadly.

However cases of a vaccine triggering the syndrome are very rare and the World Health Organisation insists that modern vaccines are extremely safe.

In total 1,458 people responded to the mumsnet poll, including 562 pregnant women.

Mumsnet suggested that the fact that many cases of swine flu had so far been mild meant that many people were unconcerned about catching the disease.

However, the organisation also warned that the Government faces an uphill task convincing the majority of pregnant women to take the jab.

The organisation warned that many seemed more worried about the vaccine than the virus that it was designed to combat.

“It’s obvious from these results and from discussions about this on Mumsnet.com that lots of mums and mums-to be are questioning whether or not to have the swine flu vaccine or give the vaccine to their children,” said Carrie Longton, one of the founders of the website.

“Some are worried about how well it’s been tested, others about its effectiveness and side-effects. Everyone wants to do the best for their child or unborn child, but many parents seem, from our poll, to be more anxious about the safety of the vaccine than they do about catching swine flu.”

But England’s top nurse insisted that the vaccine would undergo thorough safety checks before it was used.

Christine Beasley, the Chief Nursing Officer, said: “Vaccination offers the best protection against swine flu and will be carefully assessed for safety.

“Strict processes are in place for licensing pandemic vaccines and it will not start to be used on anyone, including pregnant women, until a license has been granted.”

She added: “”Pregnant women are a top priority for vaccination because they are more at risk of complications from swine flu.”


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