AAFP, Others Urge That Pregnant, Postpartum Women Be Immunized Against Flu

Pregnant Women, Infants at Increased Risk for Complications From Influenza

December 06, 2011 03:20 pm News Staff

The AAFP and nearly a dozen other organizations are urging health care professionals to immunize their pregnant and postpartum patients against influenza.

[Stock Photo-Pregnant Woman and Doc w/Syringe]

Influenza is five times more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant because of changes to the heart, lungs and immune system during pregnancy. That's according to a Dec. 5 letter(246 KB PDF) signed by the AAFP; AMA; American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Nurse-Midwives; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Nurses Association; American Pharmacists Association; and Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

The organizations are joining the CDC, March of Dimes, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and National Influenza Vaccine Summit to emphasize the importance of immunizing pregnant and postpartum women.

The letter points out that health care professionals can make a difference in whether these women are vaccinated.

"Pregnant patients whose provider recommended and offered influenza vaccination were almost five times more likely to be vaccinated for influenza than patients who reported that their provider did not make a recommendation or offer influenza vaccination," the letter says.

Story highlights

  • The AAFP and other health care organizations are asking health care professionals to urge pregnant and postpartum women to be immunized against seasonal flu.
  • Pregnant women are at increased risk for complications from flu and also are at risk for premature labor and delivery.
  • Flu vaccine, which is safe to administer during any trimester, protects women and their children.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the AAFP have recommended(4 page PDF) since 2004 that all women who are pregnant -- and those who may become pregnant -- during influenza season should be vaccinated. And, although recent studies indicate(www.cdc.gov) that immunization rates have risen markedly during the past two flu seasons, nearly half of pregnant women do not receive the vaccine.

Vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her infant (for as long as 6 months postpartum) from the flu. That's a key consideration given that influenza hospitalization rates in infants younger than age 6 months are as much as 10 times those of older children because, of course, these younger children cannot be immunized against the flu.

The letter highlights the following safety information:

  • flu vaccines have been given to millions of pregnant women during the past decade and have not been shown to cause harm to women or their infants;
  • flu vaccine can be given to pregnant women during any trimester; and
  • although pregnant women should receive the inactivated vaccine as an injection and not the live attenuated vaccine in spray form, postpartum women can receive either form of the vaccine, even if they are breastfeeding.

The CDC website has additional information for physicians regarding the flu(cdc.gov) and flu vaccine(cdc.gov), as well as information for consumers(cdc.gov). The agency also has physician resources available for National Influenza Vaccination Week, which is Dec. 4-10.