The flu is an infection caused by the influenza virus, a serious disease that can lead to serious complications and even death. Close to 20% of the U.S. population will get the flu and up to 49,000 people die because of it every year, and 200,000 are hospitalized.
The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu. A pregnant woman with the flu also has a greater chance of serious problems for her unborn baby, including miscarriage or preterm birth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all women who will be pregnant during influenza season (October through May in the United States) receive inactivated influenza vaccine at any point in gestation.
The influenza vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. No study to date has shown an adverse consequence of inactivated influenza vaccine in pregnant women or their offspring. The vaccine is made the same way each year. Since influenza virus mutates very rapidly, the virus included into the vaccine change every year and investigators will add the 3 strands predicted to be the most common for the season.
Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in multidose vials, has not been shown to cause any adverse effects except for occasional local skin reactions. There is no scientific evidence that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause adverse effects in children born to women who received vaccines with thimerosal.
In addition to the benefits of immunization for pregnant women, it is been demonstrated also fewer cases of influenza as well as fewer cases of respiratory illness with fever among infants whose mothers had been immunized compared with women that did not received the flu shot. Maternal immunity is the only effective strategy in newborns because the vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than 6 months. Vaccination early in the season and regardless of gestational age is optimal, but u n v a c c i n a t e d pregnant women should be immunized at any time during influenza season
WHO SHOULD NOT BE VACCINATED?
• People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
• People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
• Children younger than 6 months of age.
• People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever.
• People with a history of Guillain– Barré Syndrome.
Different side effects can be associated with the flu shot and the viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects like inflammation of the site of injection, low-grade fever and aches can occur. They begin soon after the shot and usually last 1 to 2 days. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.
Pregnant women represent a vulnerable population with regard to influenza, and influenza vaccination is an integral element of prenatal care.
If you are planning to have a baby or are already expecting, we will be happy to see you in our office to discuss in more detail your personal needs.