According to a recent report, approximately 67% of pregnant women in the U.S. do not get critical vaccinations against flu and whooping cough, which can protect them and their newborns from fatal and life-threatening diseases.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "Influenza and pertussis (or whooping cough) are serious infections that can be deadly for babies, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated directly." But, when pregnant women receive these vaccines, they pass on the antibodies to the fetus, which provides the required protection.
She also discussed the benefit of the vaccines on pregnant women. "Women who are pregnant are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized if they develop influenza, compared with similar-aged women during influenza season," she explained.
The new survey conducted by the CDC found that only two-thirds of the expectant mothers receive these vaccines. The agency conducted a study, which included approximately 2,100 women age 18 to 49 who were pregnant between August 2018 and April 2019. Of those, 1134 said that they had been vaccinated with flu shot before or during pregnancy, while 1155 received the whooping cough shot during pregnancy.
An in-depth study of the data revealed that, out of all 15 to 44-year-old women who were hospitalized due to flu since 2010, 24% to 34% of them were pregnant. The CDC study also found that only 9% of U.S. women in this age group are pregnant at any given time each year.
As per their report, only 35% of women received both vaccinations while pregnant. Looking at the numbers, Dr. Laura Riley, an obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York City, expressed her disappointment. She said that given the numerous benefits of these two vaccines, the numbers are much lower than it should be. She also feels that since the numbers came from an online survey and depended on patients' recall they might not wholly accurate.
A reference from health care providers increases the chances of expectant mothers taking the flu shots. As compared to any other racial/ethnic groups, black women had the lowest rate and they were also least likely being offered or referred for vaccinations.
One flu shot, taken any time during pregnancy, reduces the chances of hospitalization due to flu by 40%. It also cuts down the chances of flu-related hospitalization for infants under six months by about 72%. And the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) received as part of routine prenatal care in the early third trimester helps to prevent more than 78% of cases in babies under 2-months. Currently, two-thirds of the babies infected with whooping cough end up being hospitalized, and 70% of deaths also occur at that age.
CDC urges “health care providers speak with moms-to-be about the benefits of safe Tdap and flu vaccination for their health and the well-being of their babies."