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Flu Shots Keep Pregnant Women And Their Babies Safe, But Many Are Skipping Them: CDC

Just 35 per cent of pregnant U.S. women get both flu and whooping cough vaccines.

Listen, we get it. When you’re pregnant, it can seem natural to start putting your own health on the back burner as the focus turns to all things baby.

But while we can sympathize with missed gym sessions and going an entire trimester without consuming a vegetable, there’s one very important healthcare step pregnant women should never skip, yet most are: getting their flu and whooping cough vaccines.

Only 1 in 3 pregnant women in the U.S. get both vaccines, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And this can have grave repercussions for both mom and baby.

“Influenza and whooping cough can be deadly, especially in a baby’s first few months of life. Vaccinating women against these diseases during each pregnancy helps protect both them and their babies,” CDC said in Tuesday’s report.

Pregnant women with the flu are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized, CDC noted, and the flu is very dangerous for babies (especially those less than six months old, who cannot get vaccinated themselves). Meanwhile, 69 per cent of whooping cough deaths happen in babies who are less than two months old.

Routine vaccines during pregnancy protect both mom and baby, CDC notes.
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Routine vaccines during pregnancy protect both mom and baby, CDC notes.

For the report, CDC surveyed 2,100 U.S. women ages 18 to 49 who were pregnant any time between Aug. 2018 and April 2019. While 54 per cent got their flu shot, and 53 per cent got the whooping cough vaccine (called Tdap), only 35 per cent got both.

“I want to reinforce that all expectant mothers should be up-to-date with recommended vaccinations as part of their routine prenatal care,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a news release.

“CDC strongly recommends that health care providers speak with moms-to-be about the benefits of safe Tdap and flu vaccination for their health and the well-being of their babies.”

Flu and whooping cough in Canada

Flu season in Canada typically starts in late fall, with peaks in January and can last until May. Health Canada notes that young children and pregnant women are particularly at risk from suffering from complications if they get the flu.

About 3,500 Canadian die each year from the flu, Health Canada said.

WATCH: Yes, pregnant women can get vaccines. Story continues below.

Between 1,000 to 3,000 Canadians get whooping cough (also called pertussis) each year, and it is most dangerous in children under the age of 1, Health Canada explains. HealthLink B.C. adds that one to three people die from the illness in Canada each year — usually infants under three months old.

The agency recommends that all pregnant women get their flu and Tdap vaccines.

“Vaccination with an inactivated flu vaccine lowers the risk for complications from flu during pregnancy and after your baby is born,” Health Canada said on its website.

Health Canada noted in its Canadian Immunization Guide that getting the Tdap vaccine in pregnancy is “safe and effective in preventing neonatal and infant pertussis infection.”

“High levels of antibody are transferred to the fetus, protecting the newborn from pertussis during the first two months of life when the morbidity and mortality from pertussis infection is highest.”

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