Thursday, September 10, 2009

What about flu vaccines?

We have reason to suspect that the pandemic H1N1 flu may come back with a vengeance this fall. For this reason, CDC recommends vaccination which will require two injections over time. Historically, major flu strains often start gradually, as H1N1 did this spring, then they gear up, sometimes mutate, and come back in full force in the fall. Even if this isn't the killer flu predicted to hit in our lifetime, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Just as we’ve seen with seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus or swine flu appears to put pregnant women at a greater risk for serious complications. As of September 2009, pregnant woman accounted for about 6% of the U.S. deaths related to the H1N1 virus. Some of these women have had other chronic conditions, but expectant mothers are naturally more at risk. For instance, women in their third trimester are known to have a harder time recovering from respiratory infections.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women receive BOTH the seasonal flu vaccine (available now) and the H1N1 flu vaccine that will be available in October. Early trials have shown good immunity with just one injection for H1N1. So two shots (one seasonal and one H1N1 are recommended but not three as earlier speculation indicated an H1N1 booster might be needed). Community Nursing Services provide seasonal flu shots and no copay is charged for PEHP subscribers. Click their link to find locations. State agencies are also offering flu shot clinics at various locations. See your human resource department for dates. Local pharmacies also offer the shots, and your prenatal care provider can probably provide these for you. In addition, here is a flu finder to help you locate what you need.

After years of flu vaccination studied in pregnant women it has been determined that this does not cause any increased risk of birth defects and the possible adverse effects of the flu, including high fever, is risky for pregnant women. If you want to inquire further, call the Pregnancy Risk Line for information. In the Salt Lake area the number is (801) 328-2229 and outside Salt Lake it is (800) 822-2229.

The seasonal flu is different from the H1N1 (Swine) flu and each needs its own vaccine to reduce your risk. There are always other viruses that make us sick but these vaccines are formulated to protect against those strains most likely to affect us in a given year.

Click here for CDC updated information on H1N1 flu vaccine in pregnant women. It is assumed that since the process of making the vaccine is the same as it is for seasonal flu, which has been shown to be safe in pregnant women, the CDC does not anticipate complications or problems with the vaccines for the moms and babies. All vaccines pose some risk but it is considered much less than the risk of getting influenza in pregnancy. The vaccine is reported to be thimerosol-free.

Vaccine Supply (according to Medscape)

Tom Frieden (Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]) reported on CNN News that:

  • The first supply of the vaccine should be available for the high-priority group in about 3 weeks;
  • A single dose should be adequate;
  • It will require "about 10 days" to acquire immunologic protection; and
  • The 2009 H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine may be taken at the same time. (CNN News. FDA approves H1N1 vaccine applications. September 15, 2009.)
Another article about this subject from the NY Times here.

Other measures you can take to reduce your risk of the flu include:
  • Stay away from large crowds where sick people may be present
  • Covering your cough with your inside elbow (and encouraging your family members to do the same)
  • Stay away from home or school if you have symptoms - typically cough, headache, fever
  • Increase your level of handwashing and carry disinfectant wipes or antibacterial hand wash. Teach your kids this skill too.
The best thing you can do to protect your baby is breastfeed. The antibodies provided through breast milk is ever changing according to the needs and environment the baby is in. Your baby gets immunized through you! March of Dimes says, Flu and pregnancy don't mix. Best Blogger Tips

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