Docs Urged to Immunize Pregnant, Postpartum Women against Influenza

Several major medical societies have issued a statement urging physicians to immunize their pregnant and postpartum patients against influenza.

With flu season looming, several major medical societies have issued a statement urging physicians to immunize their pregnant and postpartum patients against influenza.

In a letter published Sept. 15, officers from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the AMA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Pharmacists Association, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives joined the CDC and the March of Dimes in stressing the need for these women—who are at increased risk for complications from influenza—to be immunized.

Physicians are being asked to encourage pregnant and postpartum patients to get vaccinated against influenza; if you don’t offer vaccinations, “find out who offers the vaccine in your community and send your pregnant and postpartum patients there,” said the statement.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the AAFP have recommended since 2004 that all women who are pregnant—and those who may become pregnant—during influenza season should be vaccinated. However, vaccination rates for this high-risk group remain low. According to the CDC, less than one-fourth of pregnant women in the US were vaccinated against seasonal influenza during the 2007-08 flu season; pregnant women, in fact, have the lowest rates of coverage among all adult populations recommended to receive influenza vaccination.

In their letter to healthcare professionals, the AAFP and the other medical societies offered the following as reasons for pregnant women to receive the influenza vaccine:

  • Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from influenza compared with women who are not pregnant.
  • Influenza increases the risk of premature labor and delivery.
  • Vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her infant (up to 6 months of age) from the flu; influenza hospitalization rates in infants younger than 6 months are more than 10 times that of older children.
  • Pregnant women represented 5% of deaths from the 2009 novel influenza A (H1N1) in the US, although only 1% of the overall population was pregnant during the pandemic. Severe illness in postpartum women also was documented. The 2009 H1N1 virus, which is included in the 2010-11 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine, is expected to continue to circulate this season.

For more information, visit the HCPLive Vaccination Condition Center.