Press Room

Health Officials Encourage Flu Shots to Protect Pregnant Women and Infants

ARLINGTON, VA (Dec.8.2017)—Flu season has arrived in the United States and with influenza activity on the rise, being vaccinated against the flu for people six months and older remains the best line of defense to prevent illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by influenza. This is particularly true for older adults, children under five, and pregnant women. However, many people do not receive an annual flu shot, even though they have been shown to offer significant public health benefits.

New CDC data show that two-thirds of pregnant women are not protected against flu. As the 2017-2018 flu season gains momentum, health officials are recommending that pregnant women talk to their healthcare provider about getting a flu shot to protect them and their babies throughout the flu season.

Peak flu activity in the United States most often occurs from December through February, but can last as late as May.  While it is best to get a flu shot before the start of influenza season, vaccinations received later may still provide protection. With early data pointing to a moderately severe flu season, getting vaccinated is more important than ever. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” says Randall W. Williams, an obstetrician/gynecologist and director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Many state health departments, working with local healthcare providers and other partners, have robust influenza vaccination campaigns underway and are working hard to scale up efforts to protect mothers and babies from the flu.”

State and territorial health departments play an integral role in ensuring access to vaccines, providing public education on vaccine preventable diseases, and galvanizing community partners and healthcare provider to improve vaccination rates. These efforts and partnerships are needed to encourage the population to take the initiative to get vaccinated and to ensure access to the more than 148 million vaccines that have been distributed across the country.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu shots for all women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season. Pregnant women are at increased risk of complications due to the flu. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs make a pregnant woman more susceptible to influenza.

ASTHO partnered with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse Midwives to create a suite of resources that public health professionals and healthcare providers can use to educate and promote influenza vaccination among pregnant women.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.

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