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

OCT 12, 2016 | EINAV KEET
Of the vaccines studied, only ten included product information that suggested use during pregnancy: one from Australia, one from Canada, one from East Asia, and the remaining seven were from European Union countries. Of those, there was a wide variety of information regarding safety data for pregnancy. One vaccine’s information read that influenza vaccines can be used throughout pregnancy. Seven stated that inactivated influenza vaccines can be used throughout all stages of pregnancy and that safety data hasn’t shown any adverse events that could be attributed to the vaccine in pregnant women or their fetuses. Adding to the inconsistency, product information from another vaccine recommended influenza vaccine ‘‘to pregnant women who will be in the second or third trimester during the influenza season, including those in the first trimester at the time of vaccination” and further indicated that the vaccine has not been evaluated in pregnant women.

Of the rest of the vaccines’ product information studied, 20 used language that suggested that official recommendations should be considered when it comes to pregnant women use. Another 48 of the vaccines had product information with language suggesting that users consult a health care provider to determine whether the vaccine should be administered during pregnancy. More than a quarter of the vaccines came with information suggesting use ‘‘if clearly needed” without further explanation of ‘‘clearly needed.” Two vaccines contained information recommending that a healthcare provider assess the situation and also noted that people at increased risk should receive the vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.

“Despite the favorable risk-benefit profile for influenza vaccination of pregnant and lactating women recommended by WHO, many governments, obstetricians, and expert groups, product information for some vaccines limit or even contraindicate the use of influenza vaccines in pregnant women,” write the study’s authors. “Further studies are indicated to determine the factors that contribute to low immunization coverage rates in pregnant women, including understanding by healthcare providers of the benefits to the mother, the developing fetus, and the infant in the first few months after birth. The evidence resulting from such studies could help inform and optimize educational interventions targeting health care workers recommending or giving influenza vaccines to pregnant women.”

The CDC recommends that pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy, receive a flu shot to protect themselves as well as their babies from infection. The flu shot has not been shown to cause harm to pregnant women or their babies. According to the CDC, possible side effects can include:
  • Soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
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