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Influenza vaccination during pregnancy

24 May 2018

Influenza is a serious disease for pregnant women, the fetus and newborn babies.1 Pregnant women are more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital with influenza than the general population.2

A number of changes occur to a women’s body during pregnancy. These changes include reduced lung function, increased cardiac output, increased oxygen consumption, and changes to the immune system. Due to these changes, pregnant women have an increased risk of severe complications from influenza. The best way to protect pregnant women against flu is by vaccinating against it.

Most pregnant women are still concerned about the safety of the flu vaccine, with only half of pregnant women in Australia and New Zealand receiving the vaccination. However, the influenza vaccine is safe for pregnant women during any stage of pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.  No study to date has shown an adverse consequence of the influenza vaccine in pregnant women or their offspring. Vaccinations need to be given each year because the viruses are always changing. Vaccinating against influenza during pregnancy can not only protect women but provide ongoing protection to a newborn baby for the first six months after birth, when they are most vulnerable, yet still too young to be vaccinated themselves.

Free influenza vaccine is available to all pregnant women in Australia and New Zealand. To receive the free influenza vaccination, pregnant women are advised to check with their specialist, GP, nurse, midwife or immunisation provider. Recent advice from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that because ‘flu season’ typically affects Australia from June–September, peaking in August, May onwards is considered the best injection time for patients to receive maximum coverage from their vaccines. Most people will have developed immunity within two to three weeks of vaccination.3

The College statement Influenza vaccination during pregnancy (and in women planning pregnancy), and further information is available here and here.
 
  1. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition (Chapter 4.7 Influenza). www.immunise.health.gov.au. World Health Organization (Global Advisory Committee on Vaccines). 2014. Safety of Immunizations During Pregnancy – A Review of the Evidence. www.who.int/vaccine_ safety/publications/safety_pregnancy_nov2014.pdf.
  2. Mertz D et al. 2017. Pregnancy as a risk factor for severe outcomes from influenza virus infection: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Vaccine; 35(4): 521- 528.
  3. https://www.racgp.org.au/newsGP/Professional/Flu-vaccines-Getting-the-timing-right



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