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Study deems flu shot safe for pregnant women

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It had always been a given, but now its official. An extensive medical study has proved that flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women. The research, undertaken by Norwegian researchers, has found no associated risk with miscarriage and the vaccine. In fact, the vaccine has proven to have prevented deaths on test subjects.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The vaccine has long been considered safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies. U.S. health officials began recommending flu shots for them more than 50 years ago, following a higher death rate in pregnant women during the flu pandemic in the late Fifties.

"This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women," Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center says.

The study is perhaps the most comprehensive look at the safety and value of flu vaccination during pregnancy, experts say.

Released by the New England Journal of Medicine this week, the report arrived as the U.S. and Europe suffer through an early, intense flu season. Obstetricians urge expectant mothers that it's not too late for their pregnant patients to get vaccinated.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health tracked pregnancies in Norway in 2009 and 2010 during an international epidemic of a new swine flu strain.

Pregnant women in Norway before 2009 were not routinely advised to get flu shots. During the pandemic, however, vaccinations against the new strain were recommended for those in their second or third trimester.

The study focused on more than 113,000 pregnancies. Of those, 492 ended in the death of the fetus. The researchers calculated that the risk of fetal death was nearly twice as high for women who weren't vaccinated as it was in vaccinated mothers.

IN contrast, U.S. flu vaccination rates for pregnant women grew in the wake of the 2009 swine flu pandemic, from less than 15 percent to about 50 percent. Health officials these statistics need to climb to protect newborns as well. Infants can't be vaccinated until six months, but studies have shown they pick up some protection if their mothers got the annual shot, experts say.

As drugs and vaccines can be harmful to a fetus, there is a long-standing concern about giving any medicine to a pregnant woman, experts acknowledged. This new study should ease any worries about the flu shot, said Dr. Denise Jamieson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The vaccine is safe," she assures the public.

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