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Posts Tagged ‘flu vaccine in pregnancy’

What Signals the Start of Flu Season?

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One might think that flu season starts with the arrival of vaccine in the local pharmacy or provider’s office.  Others might believe that flu season in the U.S. begins with the first case of lab verified flu.  While flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months,  influenza activity can begin as early as September or October and last as late as May.

The CDC monitors certain key flu indicators (like outpatient visits of influenza-like illness, lab results and reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths). When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, than “flu season” is said to have begun.

In preparation for flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) kick off their annual flu vaccine campaign each September with a special press conference which emphasizes the importance of flu vaccination.

The reality is that influenza is difficult to predict. No one knows when it will peak, how many people will suffer or die, or even how effective the flu vaccine will be.

However, what experts do know is that the flu is inevitable, yet preventable.  Every year there is suffering, hospitalizations and even deaths, but much of that could be prevented if more people were protected through annual vaccination.  2017 Flu News LBE

 

Flu is a fickle and unpredictable virus. 

This was the message Dr. Bill Schaffner delivered during the news conference last week.  Since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. typically range from 140,000 to 710,000 each year, killing between 12,000 and 56,000 people each year.  While the exact number may differ drastically from year to year, this just highlights how dangerous and unpredictable influenza is.

Now is the ideal time to get a flu shot. You want to be vaccinated weeks before possible exposure, because it can take about two weeks post-vaccination for your body to build the proper immune response from the vaccine.

Everyone should consider flu vaccination – even healthy individuals.

Flu Fact of the Week

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.  It not only helps to reduce the risk of flu illness and serious complications for the person getting vaccinated, but it also helps to reduce the amount of flu circulating in the community.  By reducing the incidence of flu, we can help protect those who might be more susceptible to serious flu illness, such as young infants too young to get vaccinated, pregnant women and older individuals who may be more susceptible to flu infection, and individuals with certain medical conditions, like heart disease, asthma and diabetes, who are at increased risk of complications from flu.

Too often people mistakenly believe that if they are healthy they don’t need a flu vaccine.  Or, they don’t realize how dangerous the flu can be and consider it akin to a bad cold.  However, influenza is a contagious respiratory illness with no cure.  Once the virus takes hold, all we can do is treat the symptoms.  While antiviral drugs are recommended to try to lessen symptoms and shorten the time one is stick by a day or two, the reality is that influenza must run it’s course.  This is why Dr. Northrop could do nothing but watch while his otherwise healthy adult sister succumbed to influenza and died.

Why choose vaccination if it can’t guarantee you won’t get flu?  

We often hear people explain that they won’t get a flu shot because it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get the flu.  While it is true that the flu vaccine isn’t a 100% guarantee, the annual flu vaccine is  typcially about 40-60% effective.  Therefore, getting your annual flu vaccine means you will reduce your chances of getting the flu by 40% to 60% as compared to someone who does not get vaccinated. It also means that flu vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization and death (especially among children and older adults).

As an example, last year’s flu vaccine effectiveness was deemed to be approximately 42% effective overall.  While that may not sound overly impressive, it is estimated that flu vaccination last year prevented about 5.4 million cases, 2.7 million flu-related doctor’s visits and 86,000 hospitalizations last season.  But last year only about 46.8% of the U.S. population 6 months and older received a flu vaccine. Now imagine if more people had been vaccinated. The CDC estimates that if overall flu vaccination coverage had been just 5 percentage points higher, another 490,000 illnesses and 7,000 hospitalizations could have been prevented.

What determines flu vaccine effectiveness?  

Read more…

5 Things Expectant Parents Need to Know About Vaccines in Pregnancy

August 10, 2017 1 comment

The more we learn about fetal development, the more advice women seem to get on what to do, and what to avoid, while pregnant.  Of course, all this information can be overwhelming, especially when preparing for the arrival of your first child.  While well-meaning friends and family will provide a constant stream of advice, expectant couples should rely on credible medical sources such as the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the American College of Nurse Midwives.   

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Here are 5 things these organizations say about the flu and Tdap vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy:

1) Maternal vaccine recommendations serve a dual purpose.  

The first reason is to protect the mother.  Changes in a woman’s immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make her more likely to get ill and suffer severe complications from illnesses as compared to non-pregnant women.  In fact, a pregnant woman is five times as likely to suffer complications or death from flu compared to non-pregnant women.  Additionally, if a woman should fall ill during pregnancy, she has a greater chance of hospitalization, spontaneous abortion or complications that can directly impact the health of her baby such as preterm labor and delivery, and low birth weight babies.

The second reason is to protect the baby.  If a woman becomes sick before, during, or even shortly after delivery, she can easily pass a disease on to her baby.  New moms spend a great deal of time in close proximity to their newborn babies, so it is understandable that they might share infections. But infections like flu and pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are not just a threat to a new mother.  They can also be extremely dangerous, and even deadly, to young children.

2) Vaccination timing is important.  

Getting vaccinated during each pregnancy (as opposed to before or after) enables a woman to pass on protective antibodies to her developing baby that can then provide short-term protection against flu and pertussis until the baby is old enough to get their own vaccines.  

The best time for a pregnant woman to get a Tdap vaccine is between 27 and 36 weeks of each pregnancy, with the earlier part of this time period being most preferable.  This preferred vaccination window is based on studies of the cord blood of babies whose mothers received Tdap vaccine in pregnancy and the associated levels of pertussis antibodies detected in that cord blood.  Often times, adults are unaware that they have a pertussis infection, which is why the infection can easily be passed on to babies.  Babies are especially vulnerable to the disease because they only begin getting their own DTaP vaccination to prevent pertussis at 2 months of age.  But even then, they need an additional four doses at 4 months, between 6-9 months, between 12-15 months and again between age 4-5 before they are fully immunized.  The antibodies they receive from their mother helps protect them in those early months after birth.

An inactivated flu shot is recommended for pregnant women at any trimester of each pregnancy.  However, the best time to get a flu vaccine is before the season begins, so that the mother, who herself is at great risk of flu complications, is fully protected before flu activity begins to elevate in her community.  . Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu virus infection, it is best for pregnant women to get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible.  Unfortunately, flu vaccines are not recommended until a child is 6 months of age, which is why the protection a child gets from his or her mother is critical to keeping that child flu-free until they can receive their own vaccine.

3) Maternal vaccines protect against two serious illnesses; whooping cough and flu.

Read more…

How My Sister Helped Save My Daughter From Whooping Cough 

June 19, 2017 20 comments

TamaraSheffieldHeadShotBy Tamara Sheffield, MD, MPA, MPH, Medical Director, Community Health and Prevention, Intermountain Healthcare

In my role as a medical director at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, Utah, I am responsible for Community Health and Prevention.  You could say that I’m a professional advocate for immunizations, since they prevent many illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths.  In fact, maternal immunizations are one of today’s most promising new preventive health strategies.

By vaccinating pregnant women against certain diseases – like whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza – we are reducing the amount of illness, hospitalization, miscarriage and pre-term labor these women experience as a result of these diseases.

Additionally, maternal vaccines enable pregnant women to pass on protective antibodies to their unborn babies.  These antibodies provide newborns with early, short-term protection against pertussis or flu, during the time when they are too young to receive their own vaccines to prevent these diseases.

For instance, children must be six months of age before they can receive their first flu vaccination, and the DTaP vaccine, which helps prevent whooping cough in children, is administered as a series of five shots (with doses at 2, 4, 6, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years of age). Sadly, there are about 100 pediatric deaths due to influenza each year, and 90% of all deaths associated with whooping cough are among infants, mostly because the thick mucus that accompanies the infection has a severe impact on a baby’s ability to breath.

For an expectant woman, changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more prone to illness.  When a pregnant women gets ill, it raises her risk of complications, such as premature labor and delivery.  But research shows that mothers can help protect themselves and their babies by getting vaccinated during pregnancy.

The flu vaccine is recommended at any trimester of each pregnancy. An adult Tdap booster vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy as well – and studies show that the best time for optimal transfer of protective antibodies is at 27-to-36 weeks gestation. The ongoing research continues to indicate that these maternal immunizations are effective at reducing the number of flu and whooping cough-related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths among infants.

The abundance of scientific evidence on this matter is one reason I am a strong advocate for maternal vaccinations.  However, I have a very personal reason to advocate for maternal vaccinations as well.

You see, I know an amazing 25-year-old young woman who nearly died from whooping cough when she was just three weeks old. 

Alicia Outside ICU at Phoenix Childrens' Hospital

Like many infants who suffer with whooping cough, this beautiful baby girl contracted it from a family member.  During the weeks before delivery, her mother developed a persistent cough that went undiagnosed, and she unknowingly passed whooping cough on to her baby.  Three weeks later, after a couple of incidents where the baby stopped breathing and turned blue, her parents rushed her to the hospital. Read more…

Friday Flu Facts: NFID Press Conference Highlights Important Data

September 19, 2014 263 comments

The National Foundation of Infectious Diseases (NFID) held a special press conference yesterday where expert panelists spoke frankly about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual flu vaccination as our best means of protection.  Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) led by example by getting his own influenza vaccination after revealing some interesting data points about last year’s flu vaccine coverage:

NFIDFreidenFluShotphotoOverall we continue to see an encouraging upward trend in flu vaccination coverage.  

  • In total, 46.2 percent of the entire U.S. population age 6 months and older was vaccinated during the 2013-14 season (which is up 1.2 percentage points from last year).
  • Coverage was highest among children younger than 5 years old (70.4 percent) and adults age 65 years and older (65 percent).
  • There was an increase in coverage among school-aged children, up 3 percentage points to 55.3 percent among children 5 to 17 years old.
  • Coverage among healthy 18 to 64 year-olds has yet to top 40 percent,and unfortunately this demographic was hit hardest last season resulting in the highest flu-related hospitalization rates this age group has seen since the 2009 pandemic.

Flu vaccination coverage in pregnant women has remained steady over the past two years at about 50 percent, which is a great increase over the less than 15 percent that were vaccinated prior to the 2009 pandemic year.  Read more…