H1N1 Vaccine Proves a Hard Sell
09.30.09 Misgivings remain among pregnant women about swine flu shot (plus questions about where to find it) despite push from U.S. officials
The H1N1 vaccine will be available in the U.S. in the next few weeks, and pregnant women will be given high priority. But the question remains: Will they get the vaccine? After all, only 1 in 7 pregnant women gets a regular flu shot each winter.
Federal health officials are working hard to raise awareness about moms-to-be getting vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, MSNBC and The Associated Press report. But there is one key roadblock to the effort: Many obstetricians don't vaccinate. On top of that issue, some pharmacists and other providers have been wary of vaccinating them.
But make no mistake, the message from the U.S. government to expectant women is clear: You're at extra risk for the H1N1 (aka swine flu) virus—it could trigger premature labor, hospitalize you for weeks, even kill you—so moms-to-be are urged to be first in line when the vaccine is released in early October, no matter your stage in pregnancy. The only exceptions are women who can't receive the regular seasonal flu vaccine because of egg allergies. (Expectant women should also not get the nasal spray flu vaccine.)
So where do you get the shot? You can start with your obstetrician or primary care physician. But be prepared to wait a little bit longer because your doctor might not get any shots in the initial shipments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that OBs partner with nearby sites such as drugstores or hospitals in an effort to reach as many pregnant women as possible. Don't worry if you miss out on a shot in the first shipment—production will be in full swing after that and eventually 250 million doses will be available.
But even this forceful message may not be enough to defeat the reluctance among pregnant women. Many moms-to-be will tell you that there is a hestitation to take any medication during pregnancy. But many experts say that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. As of Sept. 3, 6 percent of confirmed deaths from the H1N1 flu have been pregnant women even though moms-to-be only account for 1 percent of the U.S. population.
Another aspect to remember: The H1N1 vaccine does not take the place of the seasonal flu shot. Officials are advising pregnant women to get both.
It's not just expectant women, but children are also being sent to the front of the line when it comes to this vaccine. (Here's one take on how some parents are dealing with the risk when it comes to their children: swine flu parties.)
If you're expecting and concerned about the outbreak, read the CDC's advice for moms-to-be. If you're looking for a more overall take on the situation, check out CDC's up-to-the-minute H1N1 updates. Also, a Q&A and the latest updates on what the outbreak means for you and me; and our Ask the Labor Nurse blogger's advice on fighting the flu when you're pregnant.
And remember to wash your hands!
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.