Flu season is coming—get ready to vaccinate

Pregnant women and newborns are particularly vulnerable to the flu and its complications. Health guidelines recommend a flu shot during pregnancy, which is safe for both mom and developing baby. A recent study published in the journal Vaccine even says that mom can get a second shot while pregnant even if she had already received the vaccine earlier in the year.

“In the last decade, we learned that giving flu shots to pregnant women is a good way to protect babies and moms,” said study co-author Dr. Octavio Ramilo, chief of the infectious diseases division at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

During the flu pandemic in 2009, pregnant women were six times more likely to die from influenza than the general public. Flu is associated with such problems as preterm delivery and stillbirth. Yet it was believed that two vaccinations given closely in time might weaken the effects of the second one.

Ramilo and his colleagues tested blood from 141 pregnant women before and after they had flu vaccinations. The women also had blood tests at delivery, and their newborns were tested, too.

Pregnant women who’d been vaccinated earlier did have less protection against the flu a month after being vaccinated a second time, the findings showed. However, the protection levels among all the women, vaccinated earlier or not, were not different at the time of delivery.

And flu protection levels in the newborns weren’t significantly different, the investigators found. “It doesn’t make a big difference to mom or baby whether you have been previously vaccinated,” Ramilo said. “By the time the moms deliver, they both have good responses.”

All women—in fact, all children and adults—should get the vaccine in late summer or early fall. And as soon as you know you are pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about a second flu shot.

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