It’s been a whirlwind this past week. Last week I flew to Washington D.C. as an invited speaker at the NFID Influenza News Conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. I joined thoughtful experts: Drs. Tom Frieden, Kathy Neuzil and Bill Schaffner to present the 2015/16 flu season recommendations and explain rationale for every-year flu vaccine. It’s an essential vaccine for children, especially as young children are at elevated risk for more serious or even deadly influenza infections. Timing auspiciously peaked interest in the news as the press conference was in the morning immediately after the presidential candidate debate where wild myths were shared on stage about vaccine science and safety. I was able to also share my refute of Trump’s false statements here on NBC Nightly News.
I got my flu vaccine at the event in front of the cameras. Thanks to the new jet-injected vaccines (truly a needleless “shot”) it didn’t even hurt! As expected, I was sore in my arm for a day or two thereafter.
Prepping for the press conference, I was a little underwhelmed to learn that only roughly 50% of pregnant women get the flu vaccine. If you’re expecting, here’s what you need to know about the flu vaccine. Quick 1-minute video below. SPOILER: it’s an essential and safe vaccine to get at any point of your pregnancy.
On top of all the flu vaccine work I have the privilege of doing, I spent some time watching clips and summaries of the GOP debate. I was a bit disappointed Dr. Ben Carson wasn’t able to use the stage to highlight the importance of adhering to the current recommended vaccine schedule. Touting an alternative schedule (one that is untested and never been found to be any safer) let us all down. Here were my top takeaways I shared on Facebook the night of the debate:
- Partner with your child’s doc or provider to get the facts. If they don’t have the facts you’re looking for, ask them for some online references. Bring in things you’ve read that break your trust with vaccines so your doc can help understand you and your concerns.
- Parents do trust vaccines in the U.S. About 9 in 10 children are immunized on-time following the recommended schedule. Some families use alternative schedules. These are untested schedules and there isn’t a single study that proves any of the alternative schedules are safer. I feel parents have been mislead by anecdotes and politics to believe it’s safer to “space out vaccines” when we have no data that is it. Same vaccines, same risk and more time when children aren’t protected.
- While only about 47% of the U.S. population got a flu vaccine last year, 75% of infants and toddlers did! Great news as young children are at higher risk for serious complications from influenza.
- Science has proven there’s no link between vaccines (specifically thimerosal-containing vaccines) and autism. This has been disproven again and again. To continue to build the myth with anecdotes insinuates we don’t want to make decisions based in truth. Worrying about the wrong things won’t help protect our children and communities from the real threats to our health.
- Vaccines aren’t perfect (like all interventions and non-interventions, they carry risk) but the science is clear that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Governmental mandates may not be the way to build trust with families concerned about safety & I suspect we parents need to continue to ask good questions, share links that are helpful and based in fact and we must ask our experts to passionately explain why they believe in the benefits of vaccines. Working to share what I know and what I learn from experts everywhere.
Quick Takeaway: Flu Vaccine Is Safe And Essential for Pregnant Moms
- Influenza vaccine is a recommended, essential vaccine for pregnant women. Women should get the flu “shot” (needle or not) and are not recommended to have the live, nasal vaccine.
- Flu vaccine is safe to get at any stage of pregnancy: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd trimester.
- Influenza (“the flu”) is more likely to cause illness in pregnant women as they are mildly immunocompromised and at greater risk while pregnant.
- Pregnant women have a higher risk for serious complications from flu (including death).
- Flu vaccine protects pregnant women, their unborn babies, and protects the baby after birth against the flu when they are too young to be immunized.
- After a pregnant mom gets a flu vaccine she passes her antibodies via her placenta to her newborn baby. This has been found to help protect infants from more serious influenza infections.