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More Pregnant Women Getting Flu Shots

Studies Show Flu Vaccine Is Safe and Effective for Pregnant Women
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 20, 2011 -- Pregnant women are more likely to get a flu shot than they were a few years ago, and for good reason: Evidence continues to mount that the vaccine safely protects both mother and newborn from influenza and its complications.

One new study shows that pregnant women who get a flu shot are no more likely to miscarry. A second, small study shows that babies of moms who received the vaccine retain some immunity for two months after birth.

In a third study, more than half of the pregnant women surveyed were immunized in the 2010-2011 flu season. Historically, the figure has hovered at a dismal 15%, researchers say.

"We're building a large and consistent body of evidence regarding the benefits and safety of flu vaccination in pregnancy," says Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH. She is a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America's (IDSA) pandemic influenza task force and director of the influenza vaccine project at PATH, a nonprofit agency aimed at improving global health. Neuzil was not involved with any of the new research.

Past research has shown that pregnant women who are immunized are less likely to have babies who are premature, develop respiratory disease, or need to be hospitalized, she tells WebMD.

Neuzil and other experts meeting at the annual IDSA meeting in Boston say they hope the new findings will convince more pregnant women to get the flu vaccine.

Improvement in Vaccination Rates

Marci L. Drees, MD, chief epidemiologist at Christiana Health Care System in Newark, Del., and colleagues surveyed about 300 women who had just given birth during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 flu seasons.

During the 2009-2010 season, 191 of 307 (62%) said they had received the H1N1 swine flu vaccine and 186 (61%) reported they got the seasonal flu shot during pregnancy. 

In 2010-2011, 165 (55%) of 300 women surveyed said they received the seasonal flu vaccine. 

Drees tells WebMD she "was pretty happy" vaccination rates didn't drop even further last year.

"In 2009-2010, there was so much attention paid to the H1N1 pandemic," she says. "This past year was not as exciting of a flu season. People forgot how sick unvaccinated people were the year before."

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