Flu vaccination during pregnancy does not lead to an increased risk of adverse early childhood health outcomes


A population-based study, published today in JAMA, has found flu vaccination during pregnancy does not lead to an increased risk of adverse early childhood health outcomes.

Although pregnant people are not more susceptible to acquiring influenza infection, they are at an increased risk of severe illness and complications if they get the flu during pregnancy.

For this reason, all pregnant people are advised to receive a flu shot each year, yet only 36 percent received it according to a study monitoring four flu seasons in Nova Scotia. Safety concerns are reportedly a leading reason people may not receive influenza vaccination in pregnancy.

Dr. Deshayne Fell, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the Faculty of Medicine at uOttawa and a Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute, a pediatric healthcare and research centre, led the study along with researchers in Ontario and at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

The study followed over 28,000 children from birth up to an average age of 3 ½ years, with the results suggesting that maternal influenza vaccination during pregnancy was not associated with:

  • Immune-related health conditions, such as asthma, ear infections or other types of infection.
  • Non-immune-related health problems like neoplasms, sensory impairment.
  • Nonspecific health needs such as Emergency Department visits and hospitalizations did not increase.

“This study adds to what we know from other recent studies showing no harmful effects of flu vaccination during pregnancy on the longer-term health of children,” says Dr. Fell, whose other recent work includes studying the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.

“This is important because we know that getting the flu shot during pregnancy not only protects the pregnant person, but has the added bonus of protecting newborn babies from getting the flu during their first few months of life, which is when they are most susceptible to respiratory infections but still too young to get the flu shot themselves.”

The study, “Association of Maternal Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy with Early Childhood Health Outcomes,” is published in JAMA.

For a long time, “health” and “communication” have always been playing an important role in human production and life. As a concept, “health communication” was formally put forward in the 1970s. Similar to other concepts in Humanities and Social Sciences, people also have different opinions on health communication, forming multi-dimensional interpretations. However, the most classic definition is the view of Rogers, a pioneer in communication, “Health communication is any type of human communication whose content is concerned with health” [1].

Simply speaking, health communication is a kind of behavior that produces and delivers information related to human health. For example, a research work based on a specific health-related topic demonstrating and explaining certain guidelines and preventive measures could be shared among several groups of people who are concerned with the issue. In this process, communication plays the role of a “controller”.

Health communication has been introduced into public health and education for heath by American scholars since 1960s, enriching and developing the theory and methods of health education. In general, the Stanford Heart Disease Prevention Program (SHDPP) launched in the United States in 1971, is regarded as the real beginning of health communication research.

The ultimate purpose of health communication has been to make people form a change from cognition to action; to promote public and individual’s physical/mental health; to accomplish a harmonious operation in our whole society [2]. In other words, “health communication” has set up its mission to persuade the public of adopting health behaviors and preventive measures proven to be safe and effective. As such, Influenza A vaccination is an essential health concern during pregnancy.

Vaccination during pregnancy has often been a controversy among the current general population. People are not well informed, and prefer to avoid any kind of vaccination during pregnancy because they are unsure or unaware of its consequences or effects on the fetus [3]. Similarly, people are not aware of the importance of inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy [4].

Due to a lack of communication, the public is unaware of the benefit and they have a belief that, similar to other vaccines, influenza A vaccine is also contraindicated during pregnancy [5, 6].

In contrast, influenza vaccination is actually vital during pregnancy because influenza can result in severe health conditions including progression to pneumonia during antepartum and postpartum periods [7]. This might be associated with adverse perinatal and neonatal outcomes [8]. Hence, vaccination against influenza A during pregnancy might be protective.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) makes certain recommendations including the annual influenza vaccination of pregnant and pre-pregnant women during influenza (flu) season with an inactivated influenza vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in association with ACOG state that the vaccine is safe to be given any trimester during pregnancy [9]. They also mention that maternal influenza immunization is an important constituent of maternal prenatal care as well as for the newborn. Medical Health Officers based in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as other health care assistants are advised to counsel pregnant women about the safety and beneficial effects of influenza vaccination and passive immunity to their fetus.

Following the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak in the year 2009, even though influenza vaccine was first recommended to all pregnant women irrespective of gestational age in the United Kingdom in November 2010 [10], hesitancy was observed among this specific category of patients. There was a delay or a complete absence of acceptance of the vaccine despite its availability in vaccination services as stated by The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) Working Group [11] and it was believed that this hesitancy was due to a lack of communications concerning the safety of influenza A vaccine and other challenging concerns during pregnancy rendering a total of only 45% of pregnant women based in the United Kingdom to take this influenza A vaccination [12].

Since this is a vital public health concern, we therefore aimed to demonstrate and communicate with evidence, the safety of influenza A vaccination in pregnancy in order to improve the rate of influenza A vaccines in pregnant women.

reference link : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8034177/

More information: Azar Mehrabadi et al, Association of Maternal Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy With Early Childhood Health Outcomes, JAMA (2021). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2021.6778


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