Leading Health Care Groups Urge Providers To Talk to Pregnant Women About Influenza Vaccine

Pregnant women have high risk for serious complications from flu

Friday, December 09, 2011

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6052

LEAWOOD, Kan. — The nation’s leading health care organizations joined forces today in a common message stressing the importance of pregnant women being vaccinated against seasonal influenza to protect themselves and their unborn babies. In a group letter sent to health care professionals nationwide, leaders from the groups emphasized the increased number of deaths among pregnant women from influenza and provided helpful information for medical professionals.

The letter was signed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Pharmacists Association, the Association for Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the March of Dimes, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The letter urges health care professionals to vaccinate their pregnant patients and counsel them on the benefits of the vaccine.

"Family physicians can have a real impact by simply talking with their pregnant patients about all of the immunizations recommended during pregnancy and in the postpartum period," said Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president of the AAFP. “Lack of awareness of the benefits of vaccination and concerns about vaccine safety are common barriers, but pregnant patients whose health care provider recommend and offer influenza vaccination are almost five times more likely to be vaccinated.”

The influenza vaccine is safe to administer to pregnant women in any trimester. Pregnant women should be given the flu shot, not the nasal spray version of the vaccine.

Pregnant women carry a heightened risk for serious complications and death from the flu due to changes in the immune system, as well as in the heart and lungs, during pregnancy. Influenza is five times more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant.

You can view the joint letter here(www.cdc.gov). For more information on pregnancy and vaccination against the flu, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm(www.cdc.gov).

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).