The Australian government has once again formally reminded GPs to vaccinate pregnant patients, or patients planning pregnancy, for the upcoming “flu season” (May-October). The vaccine is provided for free in Australia for women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
Is it safe to have the flu vaccine during pregnancy?
Unequivocally, yes. There are no reports of adverse outcomes for mum or baby after having the seasonal flu vaccine. There is a very low risk of anaphylaxis for those with an egg allergy.
Isn’t the flu just like a cold? Why should I get vaccinated?
During pregnancy, your entire physiology changes. This includes significant changes to the way your heart and lungs work, and a reduction in immunity. This puts you at greater risk of serious illness and death from contracting the flu.
Your baby will also receive passive immunisation from the vaccine and will be protected from contracting the flu from all those well-meaning relatives who want to cuddle the new baby when it’s born, particularly if you have the flu vaccine during your second or third trimeters.
It only takes five vaccinations to prevent one case of serious illness in mother or baby.
The “flu” is more than just a cold – the virus was responsible for more than 50 million deaths worldwide during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 (more than the number of people who were killed during World War I). While most healthy adults will recover from the flu, the risk of serious illness and death is higher in some susceptible groups – including pregnant women.
Flu vaccines generally become available around Easter in Australia. If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy soon, ask your GP about having the vaccine.
Photo credit: By David Roseborough from Los Angeles, United States [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons