Only a Third of Pregnant Women Get Needed Vaccines

TUESDAY, Oct. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) — About two-thirds of pregnant women in the United States don’t get vaccinated against both flu and whooping cough, putting them and their newborns at risk, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“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,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a news briefing on Tuesday.

But when women receive these vaccines during pregnancy, they pass along antibodies to the fetus that then provide protection during the time newborns are too young to be vaccinated.

The vaccines also benefit expectant mothers, Schuchat stressed.

“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 said.

But as the new CDC report found, only a minority of pregnant American women are getting the shots they need.

The agency surveyed nearly 2,100 women aged 18 to 49 who were pregnant between August 2018 and April 2019. Of those, 54% said they got a flu shot before or during pregnancy, and 55% were vaccinated for whooping cough while pregnant.

That could mean more pregnant women becoming very ill, the report also found.

Looking at data on all 15- to 44-year-old women who were hospitalized due to flu since 2010, between 24% and 34% were pregnant, the CDC study found, even though only 9% of U.S. women in this age group are pregnant at any given time each year.

“Women have enough issues to address when they’re pregnant without going through a difficult hospitalization if they come down with influenza,” Schuchat said.

In total, only about 35% of women received both vaccinations during pregnancy, the CDC said.

Dr. Laura Riley, an obstetrician and gynecologist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York City, said, “The numbers are much lower than they should be and it is disappointing given the benefits for moms and babies associated with these vaccines.” She said the numbers may be low because they came from an online survey that depended on patient recall.