The Australian Immunisation Handbook (10th edition) recommends that pregnant women have a flu vaccination (Fluvax) if they are going to be in their second or third trimester during flu season. There is no evidence that unborn babies are at risk from inactive influenza vaccines. The benefit of flu vaccination during pregnancy is passed onto your child even before birth. By taking this extra precaution, you can rule out a lot of potentially harmful complications during pregnancy.
WHAT IS THE ‘FLU’ / INFLUENZA?
Flu, short for influenza, is an infection caused by a group of viruses that often cause severe respiratory distress. Typical symptoms of influenza include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. Although both are caused by viruses, the symptoms associated with flu are much more severe than those of a cold.
HOW ARE THESE VIRUSES SPREAD?
Influenza is transmitted via tiny droplets of moisture that are spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Once these droplets land in the respiratory tract of another, they can quickly multiply, leading to the onset of viral symptoms within 2-3 days of infection.
CAN YOU STILL CATCH THE FLU IF YOU ARE VACCINATED?
Yes and no. You are likely to have immunity to specific influenza viruses if you have been previously exposed to or vaccinated against them. However, influenza is a family of viruses that are constantly evolving. You may have immunity to a range of viruses but not the latest version of the virus. For more information see the World Health Organisation or the Better Health (Victorian Government) website.
WHERE CAN I GET VACCINATED AGAINST INFLUENZA?
To get vaccinated against influenza, you should visit your general practitioner. Feel free to ask your obstetrician or general practitioner about any specific questions regarding flu vaccination during pregnancy.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I DEVELOP FLU SYMPTOMS WHILE PREGNANT?
If you develop body aches, fatigue, headaches, a fever or cough, get in touch with your doctor as soon as you can. Even if you’ve already received the flu shot, if you’re pregnant, rather contact your doctor about treatment. Pregnant women are at higher risk of more serious flu complications, which is why quick treatment is necessary. Flu medications that are suitable for pregnant women are the most effective if taken within 48 hours. Fever is one of the most dangerous flu symptoms during pregnancy. It can harm both you and your baby.
HOW WILL FLU VACCINATION DURING PREGNANCY AFFECT MY BABY?
The flu vaccine is safe for both you and baby. Pregnant women have been receiving the vaccine for many years all over the world. A number of studies have confirmed that babies exposed to the flu shot were perfectly healthy and normal. There was also no proof that the vaccine leads to excess defects and developmental problems, including shearing, sight and speech.
DO INACTIVATED FLU VACCINES HAVE SIDE EFFECTS?
Any side effects associated with inactive flu vaccines are usually mild. Some of the effects of flu vaccination during pregnancy include redness and swelling of the injection site as well as some tenderness. Some women may also experience head and muscle aches, nausea, fatigue and fever. If these effects do crop up, it will be one to two days after the vaccine is administered. None of these effects will pose any threat to your unborn child unless the fever persists. In rare occurrences, allergic reactions can occur. If you have any severe allergies, be sure to tell your injector before you receive the vaccine. It’s also important to mention any allergic reactions you’ve experienced in the past following a vaccination.