How safe is the flu vaccine in pregnancy?

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Ugh. I've been dreading this one because I don't think I'm going to be very helpful here. There could be an entire website devoted to the controversy surrounding vaccines (and there is) but I'm going to try and keep this as simple as possible.

I think vaccines are one of the most major health advances we have ever had and we should never lose sight of how horrible the diseases are that they prevent.

The flu kills approximately 36,000 people every year so it's worth being frightened. It doesn't look like the flu itself will harm your baby, but treating you for influenza becomes complicated while you're pregnant and if you get really sick and kick it, well, that's not good for either of you.

On the flip side, I get why people are twitchy. Rumours about autism, alzheimer's, etc. make the best of us hesitant. Not to mention, most of us grew up sheltered from the horrible diseases that vaccines prevent so our perspective is skewed. The US government has paid out $847 million for vaccine related injuries since 1988 (about $32,000 a year) so while vaccines aren't totally benign, the risk is still very low.

The consensus seems to be that you should get the shot when you're pregnant and that the risks from vaccines are outweighed by the risks of the flu. 

Thing to note:

  • You can get the flu shot at any point during your pregnancy
  • You can't get the intranasal spray when you're pregnant (it isn't licensed for pregnant women) but you can get either the spray or the shot when you're breastfeeding
  • If you have a baby under 6-months old, it's not a bad idea to get yourself vaccinated. Infants younger than 6 months are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, but cannot get a vaccine. 
  • Thimerosal is one of the buzz words floating around vaccines so ask your doctor if you can get a unadjuvanted vaccine that doesn't contain it.

I also want to clarify that the flu isn't a bad cold or a stomach bug. It's a ramped up version of a cold accompanied by fever, chills, muscle pain, headaches, coughing and severe fatigue. It leaves you open to all kinds of complications like pneumonia and bacterial infections and that's where it can turn ugly.

The flu season can start as early as October, it peaks in February and can last into May. 

You can also check out the CDC website for more information here (pregnancy), here (breastfeeding) and here for folks caring for babies under 6-months old.

*editor's note: this post is about adult, pregnant women getting vaccinated for the flu and not about children getting vaccines so please don't leave horror stories about a 2-year old dying of the chicken pox here. Thanks.

search: unadjuvanted vaccine, thimerosal, influenza pregnancy, swine flu vaccine ingredients, vaccine injury compensation fund

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