All pregnant women should get flu vaccine, says updated guidelines

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New data show the continued critical need for all pregnant women, regardless of trimester, to receive the influenza vaccination, according to an updated Committee Opinion released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (the College). Several studies released in recent years have increasingly demonstrated the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccine during pregnancy, the College news release states.
The College emphasizes that preventing the flu is an essential element of preconception, prenatal and postpartum care. Moreover, physicians, healthcare organizations and public health officials should improve their efforts to increase immunization rates among pregnant women, the Committee Opinion says.
Prior to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, influenza immunization rates for pregnant women were at only 15 percent, according to the release. This rate increased to 50 percent in the 2009-10 flu season and has been sustained or slightly increased every flu season since due to strong efforts by the College, the CDC and others.
Flu vaccination is crucial for all pregnant women because the immune system changes during pregnancy, which puts women at increased risk of serious illness and complications if they get the flu, the release states. In addition, flu vaccination performs double duty by protecting both pregnant women and their babies; babies cannot be vaccinated against the flu until they are six months old, but they receive antibodies from their vaccinated mother, helping to protect them until they can be vaccinated directly.
“The flu virus is highly infectious and can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women, as it can cause pneumonia, premature labor and other complications,” said Laura Riley, M.D., chair of the College’s Immunization Expert Work Group, which developed the Committee Opinion in conjunction with the College’s Committee on Obstetric Practice. “Vaccination every year, early in the season and regardless of the stage of pregnancy, is the best line of defense.”
Vaccination early in the flu season is optimal, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, but it can be done at any time during the season, which is October through May. The College advises that all women who are or who become pregnant during the annual flu season to get the inactivated flu vaccine. Women can also receive the flu vaccine postpartum and while they are breastfeeding.
The live attenuated version of the flu vaccine (the nasal mist) should not be given to pregnant women.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. For more information see The College’s hub on immunization for women at www.immunization forwomen.org/

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