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Flu Vaccination in Pregnant Women May Be the Difference Between Life and Death

The flu vaccine may reduce the risk of stillbirth, suggests new research from the Western Australia Department of Health (WA Health).

The flu vaccine may reduce the risk of stillbirth, suggests new research from the Western Australia Department of Health (WA Health).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that pregnant women receive the flu vaccine. Not only does it protect the mother, but also the baby for up to six months. The illness is more likely to be severe in this population and can lead to additional complications, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Needless to say, the seasonal flu vaccine is necessary in all qualified individuals; but new findings puts an emphasis on pregnant women receiving the vaccine.

“In the past 12 months there has been a significant uptake in the number of pregnant women receiving the antenatal pertussis vaccination, yet the number of women receiving the antenatal influenza vaccination is still low,” Annette Regan, study author and WA Health communicable disease control directorate project officer, said in a news release.

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The researchers examined 58,008 births that occurred during the 2012 and 2013 seasonal influenza epidemics in Western Australia. Of those, only 5,076 of the women had received the vaccine. Out of all of the pregnancies, 377 were stillbirths, as described in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The pregnant women who had received the flu vaccine were 51% less likely to have a stillbirth. For every 100,000 pregnancy-days, there were 5.0 and 3.0 stillbirths among unvaccinated and vaccinated women.

If the flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women, why do only 60% of them in Western Australia receive it? Regan suspects that many are concerned about potential safety issues. However, this research reaffirms the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in pregnant women.

“While further research is needed to confirm these links, the findings of this study should encourage expectant mothers and healthcare providers to discuss the safety and benefits of receiving the influenza vaccine during pregnancy,” Regan concluded.

More than three million stillbirths take place worldwide every year, so establishing a potential way to lower that number is encouraging.

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