Flu Vaccination During Pregnancy 'Still Falls Short' of Recommendations

The latest CDC study reported overall coverage of 50% in influenza vaccination among pregnant women
The latest CDC study reported overall coverage of 50% in influenza vaccination among pregnant women

Data from the Birth Defects Study found that influenza vaccination coverage rose during the 2012–13 and 2013–14 season from 35% to 41%, respectively. 

Pregnant women and infants are at a higher risk for influenza-associated complications. Receiving influenza vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to protect infants for several months after birth. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) updated their guidelines in 2004 to recommend that "women who will be pregnant during the influenza season" receive the seasonal influenza vaccine no matter which trimester she is in.

The latest study data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported overall coverage of 50% in influenza vaccination among pregnant women (2015–16 influenza season) with an estimated 14% being vaccinated ≤5–6 months pre-pregnancy and 36% being vaccinated during pregnancy.  

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In addition, researchers at the Birth Defects Study of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University tracked vaccinations received during pregnancy since the 2005–06 influenza vaccination season. They reported on trends in seasonal influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women in the Birth Defects Study during 2005–2014 as well as the settings in which the women were vaccinated.

In the seasons prior to the 2009–10 pandemic H1N1 influenza season, the vaccination coverage was approximately 20% among mothers of infants without major structural birth defects (control newborns). Infants with major structural birth defects (cases) were identified at study centers that included participating hospitals as well as birth defects registries in some states. Within 6 months post-delivery, mothers of case and control infants were able to participate in a computer-assisted telephone interview. 

During the 2009–10 season, seasonal influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women rose to 33% and to 35% for the pH1N1 vaccine. The next two influenza vaccination seasons (2010–11 and 2011–12) saw a slight decline to 31% and 27%, respectively. Since then, coverage increased again to 35% in the 2012–13 season and to 41% during the 2013–14 season. 

The majority of flu vaccinations (79%) during the 2013–14 season for pregnant women occurred in a traditional healthcare setting such as the obstetrician's office, primary care physician's office, or a prenatal clinic. The proportion of vaccine doses received in pharmacy/supermarket settings increased from 4% in 2005–06 to 8% in 2013–14, and the proportion received at work or school decreased from 23% in 2006–07 to 10% in 2013–14.

Although the increasing trend is encouraging, "coverage still falls far short of the 2016 ACIP recommendation that all pregnant women who are or might become pregnant during flu season be vaccinated." The CDC reported that during the 2015–16 season, 63% of pregnant women whose provider recommended and offered the vaccination received it vs. 38% who received a recommendation but not offered the vaccine. Increasing vaccination rates among women who are pregnant or may become pregnant during the influenza season is a core public health and clinical practice goal, the report concluded.

For more information visit CDC.gov.

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