New research, conducted over six flu seasons in several countries, shows that vaccinated women who had the flu vaccine were less likely to need hospital treatment for flu.
The finding supports earlier studies showing that women who had the vaccine were less likely to have the flu. Separate research has shown fewer premature births and stillbirths in women who had the flu vaccine.
Studies of flu vaccine safety during pregnancy have shown no increase in adverse events for women or their babies.
In light of the vaccine’s safety record and significant benefits for mother and child, the WHO accounted in 2012 that pregnant women are the top priority group for flu vaccination.
The latest research, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, says pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing serious flu illness requiring hospitalisation.
The study looked at data from more than 2 million pregnancies in Australia, Canada, Israel and the United States. A network of experts looked back through pregnancy medical records from 2010 to 2016 to identity people who were hospitalised with laboratory-confirmed flu.
They found that more than 80% of pregnancies overlapped with flu season, highlighting the risk of exposure to flu viruses while pregnant. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of catching flu and the risk of developing serious complications.
Avoiding sickness during delivery
‘Our study found that flu vaccination worked equally well for women in any trimester and even reduced the risk of being sick with influenza during delivery,’ said Dr Mark Thompson, an epidemiologist with CDC’s Influenza Division.
The vaccine was ‘equally protective for pregnant women with underlying medical problems such as asthma and diabetes’, which also increase the risk of serious medical complications including a worsening of those chronic conditions.
‘Expecting mothers face a number of threats to their health and the health of their baby during pregnancy, and getting the flu is one of them,’ said Dr Allison Naleway, PhD, a study co-author from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. ‘This study’s findings underscore the fact that there is a simple, yet impactful way to reduce the possibility of complications from flu during pregnancy: get a flu shot.’