Fighting off another flu vaccine falsehood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is not recommending that pregnant women get their doctors’ approval before they “get vaccinated at a worksite clinic, pharmacy, or other location outside of their physician’s office.”1
Erring on the side of caution, the primary caveat is that pregnant women should receive a regular flu shot (i.e., inactivated influenza vaccine [IIV]). They are advised not get the live attenuated influenza (LAIV) nasal spray vaccine.
Vaccine information on the internet can be rife with controversy and misinformation. At the annual flu press conference this year at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), the CDC and its clinical partners made immunization of pregnant women a high priority.
Indeed, pregnant women are recommended for vaccination because they are at high risk of serious complications of flu infections, said Laura Riley, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
“Pregnant women who get the flu do very poorly,” she said at the NFID press conference. “They do way worse than any other non-pregnant individual. So, it is absolutely critical that we prevent pregnant women from getting the flu.”
Immunization can be given at any stage of pregnancy. If flu infection does occur, the later the pregnancy, the greater the danger of severe respiratory illness in the mother, said Riley, a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“In every flu epidemic, we know that as you get into the second and third trimester of pregnancy, you’re more likely to die and more likely to be hospitalized,” Riley said.
While the CDC is looking into outlier data that has been interpreted by some as linking repeated flu vaccination with increased miscarriage risk, the current recommendation is based on the consensus that vaccination protects the mother and fetus and confers immunity into the early months of life.
“When pregnant women get really high fever for extended periods of time, we know that fever actually causes birth defects,” she said.
In addition, women who get the flu may deliver early, raising a host of issues associated with premature birth.
“Not only has ACOG and CDC been recommending it to pregnant women, we’ve also been trying very hard to convince providers — nurse practitioners and midwives and obstetricians, family practitioners, anyone who takes care of pregnant women — they have to be on board,” Riley said.
“They have to remember to strongly recommend it to pregnant women.”
Only about half of pregnant women were vaccinated in the 2017-18 flu season. The CDC and partners are pushing to achieve an “80-plus” percentage of vaccination in pregnant women this season.
- CDC. Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Sept 25, 2018: https://bit.ly/2lf93NH.