H1N1 Flu Shot Appears Safe During Pregnancy
But Shot May Slightly Increase Risk for Guillian-Barre Syndrome in People 6 Months or Older
H1N1 Shot Not Linked to Major Birth Defects, Preterm Birth continued...
The H1N1 vaccine in the new studies contained an adjuvant, or added chemical, to increase the body's immune response to the vaccine. Adjuvants were not given in the U.S. Neither the U.S. pandemic H1N1 vaccine nor the U.S. seasonal flu vaccines contain adjuvants.
But that doesn't mean the findings are irrelevant, says Mark C. Steinhoff, MD. He is the director of the Children's Global Health Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Steinhoff co-wrote an editorial accompanying the two new studies.
"In the event of a future pandemic, we will know that this adjuvant is safe," he says.
Pregnant Women Should Get Flu Shot
The most important message is that pregnant women need to get the flu shot to protect their own health and that of their infant. Pregnancy can affect the immune system.
"The probability of getting hospitalized with the flu when you are 20-something and pregnant is seven times higher than when you are 20-something and not pregnant," Steinhoff says. "Your baby pays the price, too."
Infants may be protected by their moms' antibodies against the flu for the first six months of life, a period of time when they are susceptible to the flu and severe complications.
"The vaccine is a three-for-one -- it protects the mother, the fetus, and the infant," Steinhoff says.
Jill Rabin, MD, always reminds pregnant women to get their yearly flu shots. She is the chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics, and gynecology, and head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"Getting the flu during pregnancy is much more dangerous to the mother and baby than the vaccine," she says. "Pregnant women should be the first in line, as the benefits outweigh the risks, and the risks can be fatal."
The two studies appear in the July 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.