The New England Journal of Medicine released the results of a new study yesterday, confirming the long standing conclusion that getting a flu shot while pregnant is safe. More than 50 years ago, health officials began recommending flu shots after a flu pandemic in the 1950's resulted in a high death rate for pregnant women.
The results come from the largest study of it's kind, focusing on over 113,000 pregnancies in Norway during 2009 and 2010 during the international flu pandemic involving a new strain of swine flu. Even though 492 fetal deaths occurred, the conclusion of the researchers is that the risk of fetal death is close to twice as high in women who did not receive the flu vaccine. The study was conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
During the swine flu pandemic, vaccination rates for pregnant women in the United States rose from 15 percent to close to 50 percent. Health officials suggest that more women get vaccinated, as studies have shown that an annual flu shot offers some protection to newborn babies. The suggested age for infant vaccination against the flu is 6 months.
There has been an on-going concern over giving pregnant women vaccines and drugs, as some can be particularly harmful to a fetus. Doctor Denise Jamieson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the study should ease any worries about flu shots. "The vaccine is safe", she stated.
Doctor Geeta Swamy, a researcher at Duke University said, "This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women."
Even though the current flu epidemic seems to be waning, it's not too late to vaccinate. See your healthcare provider. The flu vaccine is also available at nearly every drug store chain, as well as at local health departments. This link will provide detailed information about this season's flu vaccine.