Pregnant women are not getting vaccines over ‘baseless’ concerns

Irish health professionals have ‘unfounded’ worries about the jabs, survey says

Up to 40 per cent of Irish health professionals say they lack the confidence to recommend vaccines to pregnant women due to safety concerns, a survey has found.

This is despite the fact the vaccines to protect against flu and whooping cough are safe and are recommended by the HSE for women who are pregnant.

Unfounded concerns about vaccine safety are also rife among pregnant women, according to a separate survey of patients at the Rotunda Hospital, with up to one-quarter saying they were discouraged from getting the jab by worries about the risks involved.

“The risks are huge. If you interfere with pregnancy you’re asking for trouble,” one mother told researchers from the hospital.


They concluded that work is needed to stress the safety, and not just the benefits, of vaccines for mothers and their babies.

One in eight health professionals said they lacked confidence in the flu vaccine because of safety concerns, and half of this group say they never recommend the vaccine for pregnant women, the survey of 1,100 GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals found.

Some 38 per cent of those surveyed expressed a lack of confidence in the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine due to safety concerns.

The prevalence of doubt varied from 67 per cent among pharmacists to 22 per cent among GPs.

Lack of continuity

A conference held in the Rotunda, to discuss the findings of both surveys which were conducted by the hospital, heard of a lack of continuity in the provision of vaccines for pregnant women.

The HSE provides the flu vaccine free for all expecting mothers, but does not fund its administration.

Women attending antenatal clinics in maternity units are generally advised to get the jab but must go to their GPs to get it.

For non-medical card holders, this usually involves a minimum €30 cost to see a practice nurse, though some doctors do not charge for providing the vaccine.

The uptake among pregnant women attending the Rotunda last winter was 55 per cent for the flu vaccine and 32 per cent for the whooping cough vaccine, the researchers found.

Stay-at-home and non-Irish mothers, along with public patients and women with lower educational attainment, were less likely to obtain the flu vaccine.

Women who had received information about the vaccine, and those who had previous births, were more likely to avail of it.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times