Flu Shots While Pregnant are Safe

Flu vaccine can protect newborns

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’re pregnant, getting a flu shot is a good idea. Not only can it help you ward off the seasonal flu, it also will help protect your baby from infection - and it won’t cause miscarriage, say studies that will be released this week.

Newborns are especially susceptible to the flu, but they aren’t allowed to get flu shots (or any vaccine) until six months of age. Infants who become ill are at high risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia or dehydration. Now, this report shows that pregnant women who get vaccinated pass on protection from the flu to their babies, at least for a few months after birth.

One of the studies that will be presented at the meeting tracked 27 pairs of mother and babies. Among the women, 11 women had the flu vaccine and 16 did not. The doctors found that all 11 women who had the flu vaccine passed flu antibodies to their babies. And only 31% of babies born to the 16 non-immunized women had flu antibodies.

But flu protection in the babies lasted only for a short time. After two months, 60% of babies born to immunized women had antibody protection; only 22% were protected after four months. Still, some protection is better than none during those first few critical months of life: The babies born to non-immunized women had zero protection after two months.

Pregnant mothers should get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, said lead author Dr. Julie Shakib, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, in a press release.

"Ask your OB/GYN if flu vaccine is safe."

Meanwhile, another study found that getting the flu vaccine in the first trimester of pregnancy does not cause miscarriage. Researchers looked at 243 women who had a miscarriage and 243 women who had babies, and found that getting the flu vaccine was not linked to miscarriage.

A few years ago, incorrect reports circulated on the internet alleging that the flu vaccine – particularly the H1N1 flu vaccine – was linked to a higher risk of miscarriage. Experts argued that a miscarriage can occur at any time, and if it happens to occur near the time someone got vaccinated, it doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused it. But the misinformation and sensationalized reports led to many pregnant women avoiding the flu vaccination.

Women often decide not to get the flu vaccine because they’re not sure if it’s safe, said Dr. Stephanie Irving, an epidemiologist at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wisc., in a press release. Now, women should feel completely at ease about getting vaccinated, said Irving.

It seems the message that flu vaccines are safe has been received. In the last few years, more and more pregnant women have received flu vaccines. A Christiana Care Health System study says that before 2009 fewer than 15% of pregnant women got vaccinated. After the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009-2010, more than 60% of the 300 pregnant women surveyed got the flu vaccine. During the following flu season, 2010-2011, about 55% of women got the vaccine.

It’s good that more pregnant mothers are getting vaccinated, but almost half of pregnant women aren’t getting the vaccine, said Dr. Marci L. Drees, a hospital epidemiologist at Christiana Health Care, in a news release.

How can doctors get more pregnant women to get vaccinated?

According to Drees, obstetricians must remind the women that the flu vaccine if safe.

The only doctor many expectant women see during pregnancy is their obstetrician, so obstetricians must urge pregnant women to get the vaccine or even vaccinate women at their office, said Drees.

The Christiana Care Health System study was conducted in Newark, Del.

The findings from all of the above studies will be presented on Thursday at an Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 24, 2011
Last Updated:
October 21, 2012