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Mixed Messages May Prevent Pregnant and Lactating Women from Getting Flu Shots

OCT 12, 2016 | EINAV KEET
During pregnancy, expectant mothers have to make many choices regarding their health and the health of their babies, and among theses choices is whether or not to receive the flu shot. Researchers in a recent study investigated how mixed messages delivered by vaccine manufacturers may prevent women from receiving the safe and effective influenza vaccine during pregnancy.

As flu season in North America is fast approaching, pregnant women will have to make the important decision about whether or not to receive the flu vaccine. A group of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and the World Health Organization (WHO), recently wrote a study published in the medical journal, Vaccine. In their study, they examined how information from flu shot manufacturers has, at times, failed to reflect the recommendations of world health officials, thereby causing pregnant and lactating women to turn down the influenza vaccine that can provide protection to an expectant mother and her baby. “Misperceptions and lack of awareness regarding influenza vaccine efficacy and safety have been identified as barriers to vaccination among health care providers,” note the study’s authors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in healthy women who are not pregnant, and can cause pregnancy complications that may result in premature labor and delivery. WHO explain that, “vaccine-preventable infectious diseases are responsible for significant maternal, neonatal, and young infant morbidity and mortality.” A woman’s immune system undergoes changes during pregnancy, which may make her more susceptible to infectious diseases and put her at increased risk of these diseases resulting in serious health implications. Health experts around the world support vaccines such as the flu shot for pregnant women, who can pass their immunity on to their unborn children. Immunizations can be an important part of a healthy pregnancy and may bolster a newborn’s resistance to infections in their first months of life.

While millions of pregnant women have safely received flu shots over the years, with scientific studies supporting the safety and efficacy of these vaccinations, the authors of the recent study aimed to identify barriers to influenza vaccine uptake in women who are pregnant. They looked at the language used by vaccine manufacturers in their product information, which is “formulated based on precautionary principles by regulators and pharmaceutical companies.” When vaccine manufacturers use language that comes across as “overly cautionary or restrictive” regarding the use of the vaccine by pregnant and lactating women, language can serve as an obstacle to these women considering getting the flu shot.

The researchers studied the product information language for 96 influenza vaccines marketed in different countries, using the most recent examples for seasonal, pandemic and pre-pandemic influenza vaccines, and found mixed messages regarding use in pregnant and lactating women.



Want more information on this topic and the opportunity to ask questions of an expert? Register for a live, ACPE accredited webinar February 28th 8-9 PM EST at this link: https://www.pharmacytimes.org/live-events/1106
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