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Flu jab "likely" for pregnant women

All pregnant women in England could be vaccinated against the flu from next year, after new research confirmed that the move can help protect unborn babies.

A recommendation was made by government advisers in October 2006 that all pregnant women be given the flu jab, but the advice was stalled after there was found to be insufficient evidence to demonstrate the jabs would be cost-effective for the NHS.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which made the recommendation, was asked to re-examine the data and take into account any new studies.

Now, new research from the US means it is "very likely" that expectant mothers will be given the vaccine from next year, according to Dr Douglas Fleming, a member of the JCVI's influenza subgroup.

The latest study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, found that rates of influenza among infants born to mothers who were given a flu jab were reduced by 63%.

The number of fever-linked respiratory illnesses fell by 29% in vaccinated infants and 36% in vaccinated mothers. The study, conducted in Bangladesh, suggested that newborn infants could be safeguarded against flu by vaccinating their mothers when they were pregnant.

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