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CDC Urges Pregnant Women to Get Swine Flu Vaccine

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:11am

Wednesday, NPR reported that the CDC is strongly recommending that pregnant women get the new swine flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, as they are one of the high-risk groups for the illness.

Of the 45 initial deaths from H1N1(between April 15 and June 16),6 were pregnant women. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, proportionally it’s huge. It’s 13 percent of swine flu deaths, whereas only 1 percent of the population overall is pregnant at any given time. They face a higher death risk and a higher hospitalization risk.

In general pregnant women get sicker for longer.

Experts know they’re climbing an uphill battle with preggos. Many are hesitant to take anything during pregnancy, and OBs don’t generally prescribe medications unless absolutely necessary.

So should all pregnant women jump on this vaccine bandwagon, especially for a shot that is just starting to be tested?

Earlier this week I wrote that the National Institutes of Health was looking for volunteers to test out the new swine flu vaccine. Guess what: plenty of people have leaped for the chance to be vaccinated. While we’re not sure what the side effects of this new vaccine will be, we already have legally immunized manufacturers from litigation, putting any adverse effects in with the federal vaccine court.

We are told not to be concerned about safety about the swine flu vaccine, because the manufacturers are following the same protocol making this one as they do for the seasonal flu vaccine. But what they don’t mention is that the flu vaccine–in most cases–contains thimerosol, a mercury-laden preservative. From US News & World Reports:

The new H1N1 vaccine will come in a variety of formulations, including some that won’t contain thimerosal, according to a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts also don’t mention that the seasonal flu vaccine is hardly effective. Indeed, for the 2007-2008 flu season,

In three previous winters people receiving flu vaccines were 33 percent, 43 percent and 24 percent less likely to get the flu than people who did not get flu shots. This year [2007-2008] , people who received flu shots were just as likely to get the flu as those who did not get flu shots.

Here are the top priority for vaccinating against swine flu, according to the CDC:

  • Pregnant Women. There’s the aforementioned complications for pregnant women, and there is the thought that they’ll pass on their immunity to their unborn.
  • Families of Babies Under 6 Months. Because we don’t give tiny babies shots (usually), other members of the family should be vaccinated to protect them.
  • All Kids 6 months to 24 years. So far, it seems that toddlers, adolescents, and teens are more susceptible to swine flu than seasonal flu. Plus, if they go to school outside the home, they are at risk in those germ-infested buildings.
  • Adults age 25 through 64 who have underlying medical conditions.
  • All Health Care Workers. Those in the health care field could spread the virus, but the bigger problem is that if they’re sick, they won’t be able to care for the rest of us.

That adds up to an estimated 120 million Americans. Healthy adults are near the end of the list. And surprisingly, those over 65 are at the back of the line this time, because there is some evidence that they may have stronger immunity because of the last swine flu outbreak, whether vaccinated then or not.

If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I’m a minimal vaccinator. So I’d like to know: Whether pregnant or not, how will you and your family respond to the CDC’s vaccine recommendations?

Image: u-turn 77 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. The swine flu virus: Wikimedia Commons.

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