A majority of pregnant women in the U.S. are not getting their flu shots or whooping cough vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
According to the U.S. public health institute, only one in three pregnant women in the country gets both the influenza (flu) and whopping cough vaccines (Tdap), while 38 per cent of pregnant women think they don’t need the latter.
“Influenza and whooping cough can be deadly, especially in a baby’s first few months of life,” the CDC noted.
“Vaccinating women against these diseases during each pregnancy helps protect both them and their babies. Studies show flu and whooping cough vaccines are very safe for pregnant women and developing babies.”
Guidelines in Canada
In 2018, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada updated clinical guidelines to recommend that all pregnant women get both vaccines.
The guidelines noted that women should get the vaccines every time they get pregnant — even if they have been vaccinated before.
“In the next few years, we are probably going to see new vaccines that are designed, trialled and approved specifically for that indication: to be given to mom, so mom can make the antibodies and pass them to babies through the placenta in such a way that when babies are born, they are protected,” Dr. Eliana Castillo, a specialist in reproductive infectious diseases at the University of Calgary, previously told Global News.
“If mom is protected against influenza she will pass on her antibodies, and we have pretty good data that those antibodies can protect the baby very efficiently from getting the flu in the first six months of life.”
Importance of both vaccines
The CDC adds that both vaccines protect pregnant women against life-threatening diseases.
Flu vaccination, for example, can lower the risk of influenza hospitalization by 40 per cent for pregnant women. Babies under six months lower their risk by 72 per cent.
The Tdap vaccine lowers the risk of hospitalization for whooping cough by 91 per cent for babies less than two months.
Castillo also noted vaccines are important for pregnant mothers because babies can’t get vaccinated when they are born.
“Babies less than six months cannot get the flu shot themselves, so the best way to protect them is to make sure that mom is protected and can protect them through the antibodies she makes.”
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And while some still believe that vaccines can transmit the virus to the baby, Castillo added that there isn’t any evidence that suggests this.
“I think we have had data for a while that the chances of those live vaccines harming the fetus are basically none.”
— with files from Leslie Young