In the wake of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, there has been a lot of concern regarding the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, especially in relation to high risk groups like pregnant women and infants. For most healthy adults, the flu is a significant illness that will often cause a person to feel miserable and miss several days of work, but the risk of serious illness or death is rare. However, for certain populations, the risk of serious illness or death is a very real possibility. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children are more likely to get complications from influenza.” According to the CDC, 36,000 people (on average) die from the seasonal flu every year, and most of these deaths occur in people who would be considered high risk.
Unfortunately, with increased concern and awareness about the flu, has come increased concern and speculation about complications from the flu vaccine. This concern and reluctance to receive the vaccine has been most prevalent among pregnant mothers and parents of young children. Concerns about the effects of the flu vaccine on a developing fetus or small child have resulted in many parents deciding to avoid the vaccine and roll the dice that their child won’t get sick. This is an unfortunate occurrence as we have very clear evidence that the flu vaccine is very safe for pregnant mothers and their fetuses, as well as children older than 6 months. In fact, a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that babies born to mothers that received the flu shot during pregnancy may have added protection against flu themselves. Even if this initial observation does not hold up to further scientific scrutiny, we know that the vaccine is safe for pregnant mothers and that the best way to protect a newborn child from the flu is to have the parents vaccinated so that they do not get the flu. This is especially important since the flu vaccine is only approved for children over 6 months of age which means that the children who are most at risk are not able to get the vaccine. If you are considering the flu vaccine for yourself or your children and you have questions about the vaccine, please discuss them with your doctor. You can also visit www.Flu.gov for more information.
Michelle Kravitz, M.D., a board certified pediatrician and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, shares her recommendation with Dr. Jonathan Weinstein regarding the need for pregnant women, fathers, family members and caretakers to get the flu vaccine. Doctor Kravitz is part of the experienced team of six pediatricians at Forest Lane Pediatrics with offices conveniently located in Presbyterian Hospital Plano, TX and Medical City Dallas Hospital. http://www.forestlanepediatrics.com