Flu season is officially upon us, yet many people in the United States aren't taking the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves against this illness and other potentially serious conditions. Case in point: A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals most most pregnant women aren't getting vaccinated for the flu and whooping cough, even though it's considered a part of routine prenatal care.
The CDC surveyed nearly 2,100 women ages 18 to 49 who were pregnant any time between August 2018 and April 2019 for the comprehensiveness report that was released on Oct. 8. Among the survey's findings:
- 54 percent of pregnant women reported getting a flu vaccine before or during pregnancy.
- 55 percent of women reported receiving Tdap (the whooping cough/pertussis vaccine) during pregnancy.
- Only 35 percent of women surveyed received both vaccinations.
- Women whose health care providers offered or referred them for vaccination had the highest vaccination rates.
- Black, non-Latinx women had lower vaccination rates than women of other races and were less likely to report a health care provider offer or referral for vaccinations.
These numbers are quite low, meaning a large number of mothers and babies are at greater risk for infection, hospitalization, and possibly death, according to the report. Why? Vaccinations pass on antibodies to the fetus so babies are protected at birth, when they are still too young to receive vaccinations of their own, according to the CDC.
Another risk? Pregnant women who contract influenza have a doubled risk of being hospitalized compared with other women of child bearing age who are not pregnant, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Therefore, the CDC recommends that all pregnant women receive a an influenza vaccine during any part of their pregnancy and a Tdap vaccine during the early part of their third trimester. This is because flu vaccinations lower the risk of influenza-related hospitalizations for pregnant women by 40 percent, and 72 percent for babies under 6 months of age, according to the CDC. And Tdap vaccinations in pregnant women lower the risk of whooping cough for babies less than 2 months old by 78 percent and hospitalization risk by 98 percent, according to the CDC.
Since 2010, up to 20 babies have died each year from whooping cough in the United States, according to the CDC, so a vaccination in this case could make the difference between life and death.
As for why a large number of pregnant women aren't getting vaccinated, 38 percent of the women surveyed said information about the importance of the vaccines was lacking, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Recommendations from healthcare providers are among the strongest motivators for pregnant women to get these necessary vaccines.
Amanda Cohn, M.D., chief medical officer in CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement about the findings: “Obstetricians and midwives are on the front line of care for expectant mothers and are the most trusted source of vaccine information for their pregnant patients. We encourage them to start discussing the importance of maternal vaccination early in pregnancy, and continue vaccination discussions with their patients throughout pregnancy."
The risks of not getting vaccinated for these two common vaccines are all too high, as proven by these startling statistics. When in doubt, always talk to your primary care physician or OB-GYN if you are pregnant and have questions about these shots.