By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Midwives who refuse to vaccinate pregnant women against swine flu are "irresponsible", the head of the Royal College of GPs has said.
Following reports that some patients were being advised to avoid the jab, or even denied it altogether, health authorities have sent out letters reminding midwives of their obligations.
Some women have concerns over being vaccinated while pregnant despite evidence showing they are at greater risk of complications, including miscarriage and death, if they contract swine flu.
Prof Steve Field told the Daily Telegraph: "It is irresponsible for health professionals not to follow the guidance and to actively dissuade women from having the vaccine.
"This is a professional matter and all the professions are united on the advice."
Prof Field said the College had received dozens of emails from GPs who had been confronted by women who said their midwife had given them conflicting advice.
Any nurse or midwife who continues to reject Government advice over the swine flu vaccine may have to account for their actions to the professional regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, if a complaint was made.
The letter sent out to midwives says: "All pregnant women in the UK have been prioritised for the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine as an ‘at risk’ group.
"However, there has been accumulating evidence that some nurses and midwives are either refusing to immunise pregnant women or strongly advising women against this option.
"While some uncertainty, and in some cases resistance to new vaccines is understandable, we are writing to reassure nurses and midwives of the safety of the H1N1 vaccines, and the significantly increase risk of severe complications in pregnant women who contract the virus, compared with the rest of the population."
The letter is signed by the heads of the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Christina McKenzie, Head of Midwifery, at the NMC, said: "Nurses and midwives are accountable for their actions and omissions within the NMC code: Standards of performance and ethics for nurses and midwives (2008). They must follow their employer's local policies and be able to justify their decisions should their actions cause harm.
"We would strongly advises nurses and midwives to follow the Department of Health guidelines to support the vaccination of pregnant women. Although the decision to follow guidelines rests with the individual nurses and midwives should remain mindful of their obligations under the code."
Members of the online forum Mumsnet said their midwives had told them 'not to touch the vaccine with a barge pole'.
Several members expressed concern over having the vaccine.
The letter sets out the latest safety data saying more than 65 million doses of H1N1 vaccines have been administered so far worldwide and the World Health Organisation has said they have 'an excellent safety profile'.
It also highlights WHO data which shows that up to one in ten of people admitted to hospital are pregnant women despite pregnant women making up around one per cent of the population at any one time.
Meanwhile the European medicines regulator has said children having their second dose of the swine flu jab may develop a high fever.
Parents and doctors are being urged to keep watch on a child's temperature after research found they were more likely to suffer a fever – above 38C (100F) – following the second dose compared with after the first.
Youngsters were also more likely to suffer soreness at the site of injection as well as drowsiness, irritability and loss of appetite after the second dose.
British children under 10 in high-risk groups are currently receiving two 0.25ml doses of the Pandemrix vaccine, which is half a normal adult dose. The doses are being given at least three weeks apart.
Experts at the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said the "findings were unexpected as they were not seen with the mock-up vaccine".