Pregnant women should get influenza vaccines to protect their babies and themselves

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

The kids are heading back to school, and my zucchini vines are withered—that means summer’s almost over, and we’re heading back into flu season. This year, I’m going to try my best to convince as many of you as possible to get yourselves and your children vaccinated.

Why? Because I don’t like to see people suffer and die. We’ve got a good, safe, effective way to prevent influenza—and the more people vaccinated, the better it works. There are very few medical contraindications, and the CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and over get the vaccine each year. That helps protect us all.

Today I’m going to focus at the beginning of the life cycle, with pregnancy. We’ve known for a long time that pregnant women are especially prone to complications and death from influenza infection, and ACOG (The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has recommended since 2010 that women receive a dose of injected influenza vaccine during pregnancy. Uptake has been poor, in part because of lingering safety concerns.

There have been several recent studies that provide solid reassurance about the safety and effectiveness of influenza vaccines during pregnancy. In 2013, the New England Journal published a study from Norway that looked at 117,347 pregnancies—vaccinated moms were less likely to get influenza, and less likely to have their babies die. Another study, BMJ 2012, looked at about 55,000 pregnancies in Denmark, showing no increased risk of birth defects, preterm birth, or fetal growth problems after vaccination. That same Danish group published a second study from their data set showing no increased risk of fetal death. The Danish studies looked rigorously for adverse reactions, finding no support for any significant problems, though these studies were not designed to look at the effectiveness of the vaccines.

The effectiveness of these vaccines has already been demonstrated, both to protect mom and to protect baby. Pregnant women ought to make the safe choice: get vaccinated against influenza. It’s the right thing to do for you, and the right thing to do for your baby.

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3 Comments on “Pregnant women should get influenza vaccines to protect their babies and themselves”

  1. lilady Says:

    Dr. Roy, do you have any information about the availability of the seasonal influenza vaccine (and the Tdap booster vaccine), at obstetricians’ offices?

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  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    lilady, in my community (North Metro Atlanta), the OB groups are very good with vaccines– we worked together to get the hospitals to offer Tdap to women, and they are 100% on board with influenza vaccines and HPV as well. I can’t really speak to how OBs are handling this elsewhere.

    I believe national statistics re: adult vaccination rates show they lag way behind those of children. At our ped practice we offer vaccines to parents and grandparents of our patients to help fill in the gap.

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  3. lilady Says:

    Good for you, for offering those vaccines to parents and to grandparents. I’m sure it is much appreciated.

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