August 5th, 2009
12:05 PM ET

Swine flu vaccine for pregnant women

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical News managing editor

Last October, I blogged about why health officials say pregnant women need to get a flu shot. (Full Story) Reporting on the need to get vaccinated against the influenza virus is something medical reporters do every year. Why in October? Because that's when the vaccine is usually available and when flu season is right around the corner. Why pregnant women? Well, as I learned last year, if a pregnant woman gets the flu, it could lead to serious complications including pneumonia, dehydration and hospitalization. Because pregnancy changes a woman's immune system, she can get a lot sicker than women who aren't pregnant. She can even die from it.

What was even more alarming was learning that the flu can also lead to preterm labor and fetal demise, according to one of the top flu experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Carolyn Bridges. The CDC also found that less than 14 percent of pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 44 actually got a flu shot during the 2006-2007 flu season. I was pregnant last October. After speaking to health officials and several moms who had experienced the flu and told me they’d never been so sick before, I decided that for me, avoiding the risks to me and my unborn child was worth getting a flu shot. Apparently it worked because I didn't get sick.

But now it's August, not October. So why are we thinking about the flu already? Because of the new strain, H1N1. Health officials are now saying that pregnant women not only need to get a seasonal flu shot, but they also should be vaccinated against this new, 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu, better known as the "swine flu" (even though pigs have nothing to do with it) - once the vaccine has been tested and deemed safe.

Last week, the CDC's point person for this new strain of flu virus, Dr. Anne Schuchat, told reporters that pregnant women are “disproportionately” affected by this virus and that they have a fourfold increase of being hospitalized compared with the general population.

The H1N1 virus is causing worse complications and severe infections in pregnant women, Schuchat said.

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that pregnant women are more likely to die from this virus and that vaccinating them is one important step to prevent such serious complications.

Health officials told reporters this week that once the H1N1 vaccine is proven safe and becomes available, those in the high priority groups will have to get two H1N1 flu shots – three weeks apart, in order to get full immunity. Those high priority groups include not only pregnant women, but also household contacts of children under 6 months of age (because those children can't get the vaccine); children and young adults age 6 months to 24 years; health care workers and emergency medical personnel; and non-elderly adults with pre-existing medical conditions. It will take two weeks after the second flu shot to build up to full immunity, which means the whole process to protect yourself from H1N1 takes a total of five weeks. Since this new flu vaccine isn't expected to roll out until mid-October, health officials don't expect the population to be protected until the end of December.

Given the experience earlier this spring, where swine flu rapidly spread in some schools and colleges and other places with lots of people in close quarters, health officials are bracing for a big uptick in people getting sick as the regular flu and the new H1N1 flu viruses spread during the cold weather months.

So this year, I once again am pondering what to do. This time it's a lot more difficult because come October, my little son will be just old enough to fall into the priority "six months to 24 years-old" category. Should he get two brand new flu shots plus a seasonal flu shot? It's not an easy decision. Fortunately, I still have a little time to think this over.

How about you? Are you pregnant? Will you get seasonal and H1N1 flu shots when available? Are you a parent of a newborn or infant and are you planning vaccinations for yourself or your child?

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. John W. Aldis, MD

    Certainly flu shots (expecially novel H1N1 flu) are VERY important for pregnant patients. Influenza is often a disaster in pregnant women. However, keep in mind that "somebody" is going to have to take care of those pregnant women - and everybody else too.
    People get nervous when doctors and other healthcare workers start clammoring to be first in the line for the flu shots, but without that vaccine, most healthcare workers would be best advised to NOT show up to work until they have been immunized.
    The next few months might be a very trying time for our society. If it does turn bad, it will be a MEDICAL crisis. Doctors and nurses and heathcare staff will be on the firing line taking care care of pregnant women - and everybody else too.
    John W. Aldis, M.D.
    AAFP, MPH & Tropical Medicine

    August 9, 2009 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Paige

    No injections for my family. Before you jump on the bandwagon of assuming I am uninformed, I am half way through my PhD... we just do not know enough about what we are injecting into people's bodies.

    August 9, 2009 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Larry luv

    How safe is a vaccine for H1N1?
    There has been no time to do any major clinical trials pertaining to the vaccine's safety.Basically, we will all be human guinea pigs.
    This will be a very' dangerous H1N1 trial by error experiment.
    No guarantee,but who is to say that the vaccine may do more harm then the flu itself'
    Do you want to be a part of this Huge Government experiment.?.

    August 9, 2009 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mary Lee Slettehaugh

    In 1976 I had a swine flu shot offered to government employees, and was sick for 6 months. Do I need a swine flu shot now, I am 59 and work in home health elder care?

    If this has already been answered please steer me to the reply.

    Mary Lee Slettehaugh
    Sarasota FL

    August 10, 2009 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bill stose

    With the threat of H1N1 virus this year it is time for the world to wake up and acknowledge that fact that there are new state of the art products that will drastically reduce the spread of deadly infections. These products are called long term antimicrobial protectants.Once applied to a surface they will protect and kill bacteria for up to 90 days. They are even available in a form that will protect textiles for up to 52 washings. How much safer would hospitals be if their rooms were protected against bacteria all the way down to the sheets,towels,privicy curtains and gowns. I am not referring to a type of cleaner or disinfectant. I'm talking about a protectant.
    We all know that you can kill bacteria by disinfecting. Fact...all hospitals disinfect but still they are responsible for 80% of the cases of MRSA,C-Diff,VRE, Influenza A and many more "superbugs." They should all take it one step further..."Disinfect Then Protect." I have seen many stories on steps to protect against H1N1 and they all say wash hands, cover your mouth,etc. Now do any of you really think washing your kids hands are going to make a school bus or a classroom any safer? It might help but could you image a school bus or a classroom that was protected even thought someone just sneezed on the seat in front of them? How about airliners,airports,cruise ships, and also hotels.
    This information was sent to many high ranking officials at WHO and the CDC asking them to investigate a product that will help protect against H1N1 and other infectious diseases, but got no response.
    I want to be honest and up front and let you know that I sell one of these products. I in NO WAY am looking for an endorsement or even a mention on the name of the product I sell. For your own knowledge on how these products work I have attached info sheet that will explain the state of the art technology behind these products. Again, I need no mention of my product . I will even give you the names of other products that work in a similar way as Amerashield/Bioshield 75. I can supply all of the necessary information to prove that my product does what is says it will do and I sure the my competitors can suppy the same.It is EPA approved and is the only USDA approved. Introducing these type of products would save thousands of lives around the world.

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    American Solutions for Business
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    August 11, 2009 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Vince Capp

    My question is ..”Why is the FDA and the Obama Administration failing to recognize safe products such as Ampligen as an adjuvant? Extensive research has been completed, from both an efficacy and pure biological perspective of products such as Ampligen. According to the Department of Pathology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan, their studies have concluded that the mucosal adjuvant, poly I:poly C12U Ampligen, a Toll-like receptor 3 agonist was proven to be safe in a Phase III human trial. As an effective adjuvant for H5N1 influenza vaccination these studies showed that it produced cross-protection against variant influenza viruses not seen with the vaccines given alone and also considered “most promising”. For years, the United States regulatory entities including the HHS, FDA and CDC have known about this product and watched Asian and European countries make significant progress using it as a toll like receptor for treatment and research of debilitating diseases such as the bird flu, Aids research and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Although the CDC has several times in documented forums have confirmed the existence of CFS, a sister to the more commonly known “Fibromyalgia”, the FDA has failed to address Ampligen’s approval. In addition, for reasons that the FDA claims is “due to staffing issues”, the approval of this landmark product, which the FDA is late by over 3 months, remains in NDA limbo. It is troubling that Americans who can benefit from its availability outside the spectrum of an experimental status are held hostage to regulatory bureaucracy. Its leads many to be inquire if these regulatory agencies are only catering to “Big Pharma” and possibly focusing more on the depth of purse. For over 5 years the FDA has known of findings related to Ampligen and in my estimation should have fast tracked its studies and approvals accordingly. Ref: this article and meeting notes – http://www.hhs.gov/advcomcfs/sept2004_meeting_min.html .
    Ampligen may and should be considered as an adjuvant in combination with seasonal trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine thereby providing cross-protective mucosal immunity against Noval H1N1 as it has been viewed in many tests performed for avian H5N1 viruses. Hemispherx and researchers in Asia and Europe consider that Ampligen as beening "generally well tolerated", with a "low incidence of clinical toxicity", particularly when compared to the toxicity of the diseases it is used to treat. "No serious safety issues have resulted from the administration of ~75,000 doses IV (most commonly 400 mg) twice weekly for up to one year periods or greater. Animal toxicity studies support this observation in humans with primates demonstrating the greatest margin of safety.”
    Its time for the United States to once again take a lead in innovation or we will see our Homeland Bio-Pharma industries go the way our auto and electronics manufacturers experienced in the past three decades….” Outsourced and Dependent”. I invite my opinions to be copied by whoever wishes to submit to other blogs and article comments sections, as we must demand the transparency of these regulatory agencies that all Americans deserve.

    August 12, 2009 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ron B

    While I have no doubt that the swine flu is very serious I question the idea that this is a NEW strain. For many years the experts were not able to identify various strains of anything. I suspect this was here before and infected a generation (older) and gave them some immunity. This might explain why the swine flu seems to be affecting the young and not the old. Maybe the old have already had this before.

    August 13, 2009 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. denver wilson

    The last time we pushed a swine flu vaccine, more people died from the vaccine than the flu itself.

    August 16, 2009 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Rob H

    My family is really concerned about the saftey of the vaccines. It seems like the rush this stuff out and we are unsure if it will work or what side effects it will have. Why does it seem like we never get the truth about many of these items when we need it. What if I inject my 2 year old and she develops Guillain-Barre Syndrome. When she had her 1 year vaccines she got very sick and it cost me a lot even with health insurance. I think we need guarantees on doctors work. First of all a 12 pound 1 year old got the same dosage as a 20 pound 1 year old.

    I am not against the ideas of vaccines, just really concerned about their effects. I never get a flu shot, and never get the flu, but people that get them do. How do you explain that?

    August 17, 2009 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Peter Herman

    I am a veterinarian and have given vaccinations for 40 years. We do not vaccinate pregnant dogs and cats with live modified vaccines for fear of harming the fetus. The killed vaccines are much safer. Is the swine flu vaccine a live modified viral vaccine or a killed viral vaccine? Where can I find the results of testing this vaccine on pregnat women? Are we putting the cart before the horse in vaccinating first and then testing second?

    August 18, 2009 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Paula Rothstein

    There are four different vaccines being concocted – which one will you get? Talk about playing Russian roulette. So should I submit my beautiful little girl and boy for this dangerous vaccine while the medical community monitors safety? Absolutely NOT. I scrutinize the food they put into their mouths, which car seat is most safe, etc., I am not going to ignore the poison contained in this vaccine and be another WHOOPS of the government/FDA. Not a chance.

    August 19, 2009 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lisa

    I am shocked so many doctors are recommending the flu vaccine to pregnant women when the insert clearly states, "Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Influenza Virus Vaccine. It is not known whether Influenza Virus Vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity."

    As for Ms. Falco's comment that she took the shot and didn't get sick so it must have worked, I did not take the shot and did not get sick. I took the shot in Oct 2005 and almost died. What conclusion should we draw from that.

    August 20, 2009 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Paula Rothstein

    And when they find out down the road that the swine flu shot caused birth defects, what then? Oops! Just another casualty brought about by a toxic brew financed by the government with pharmaceutical drug companies experiencing profits. Let's not forget the government has already agreed to protect vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits. Give me a break. Are we forgetting there are natural ways to support the immune system?

    August 20, 2009 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Craig

    Pregnant women have to weigh the risk vs the benefit of this vaccine carefully. On one hand, the Swine Flu can be very dangerous to the developing fetus and mother. On the other hand, the Swine Flu vaccine hasn't been tested in pregnant women and the adjuvant "Squalene", which will be in some of the manufacturers vaccines, has been shown to cause autoimmune disordered (such as Gulf War Syndrome).

    My wife is having a baby in December and we have decided against the vaccine, but have also decided that my wife will stop working in early Oct through the beginning of the 2010, to limit her potential for contracting the disease.

    August 20, 2009 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cherelle

    These comments have been helpful for me. I am pregnant with my first child and have never had a flu shot (nor have I ever had the flu). I really don't want a flu shot and am trying to find as much information as possible. Most of these comments go along with the thoughts that I have had. The Swine Flu shot makes me especially nervous due to the newness of it once it is released. I feel like we already have so much bad stuff going into our bodies, why would I intentionally add something else?

    August 26, 2009 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Stephanie

    I'm pregnant and my doctor is recommending the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. She claims it is "identical to the flu show, which women have been getting for years"... but I've never gotten the flu shot. And what i am reading leads me to believe this is NOT like the flu shot.

    To be honest, I am TERRIFIED of the vaccine. I think I may be refusing it. I've got to protect my unborn child above all else, but this is such a difficult choice... Do I definitely expose her to something that could be hazardous (ie the vaccine), or do I risk possibly exposing her to something that could be catastrophic (ie if I get the Swine Flu).

    I am seriously up at night worrying about this. I am a stay at home mom, so I think my risk of exposure is relatively low. Ug... what to do, what to do... My gut right now is telling me to avoid the vaccine and just try to stay healthy.

    This is a scary time to be pregnant. (Or so the media leads to me to believe, anyway...) Who needs all this stress??

    August 26, 2009 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Michelle Wood

    I have a fourteen year old son with type 1 Diabetis. With the news about the explosion of H1N1 flu, I am concerned about my son with his immune system not that of a healthy teenager. What are the risks with getting the vaccinationn when available, are there any side effects to be concerned about? He doesn't bounce back so quickly when he is sick.

    August 26, 2009 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. John W. Aldis, MD

    It is curious (and disappointing) how many people contributing comments to this web site are convinced that since the novel H1N1 vaccine has not been PROVED to be PERFECTLY safe (an impossible task, of course), it is automatically assumed to be more dangerous that an infection which we know has a high chance of causing significant morbidity and even significant mortality. This risk is known to be much higher in certain risk groups.
    Many pregnant women appear to be willing to risk treating their unborn babies with antiviral agents when they become infected, in spite of the fact that these drugs are known to be an unwise option compared to any imagined risks of the vaccine. Mothers fear the risks of their children developing autism from a vaccine which has NEVER (EVER!) been shown to cause this problem in children.
    The vaccines being tested are essentially IDENTICAL to vaccines which have been proven to be both VERY safe and VERY efficacious over MANY years. These vaccines are being offered to treat an infection which we expect to be wide-spread and proven to be a serious risk in some patients.
    The risks don’t come getting the vaccine. The real risks come from getting the infection if you do not get the vaccine.

    John W. Aldis, M.D.
    AAFP, MPH & Tropical Medicine

    August 27, 2009 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Lynn

    I am pregnant and am very conflicted about what to do. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, so now that I am pregnant again, I want to do everything possible to protect my unborn baby. I am also a school teacher and will be exposed to many germs within the next few months. I have never gotten the flu shot and have not had the flu. I am very cautious when it comes to medicine and vaccines and am hesitant about getting the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 vaccinet. Have there been clinical trials conducted?? If so, what were the results? I also read that pregnant women should not receive the H1N1 vaccine containing thimirasol. Any thoughts on this??

    August 28, 2009 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Stephanie

    Dr. Aldis – Thanks for your perspective. I'm trying to stick to real experts (such as yourself) in my research, rather than alarmists and anti-vax groups who are SO vocal online.

    I've learned these vaccines will NOT contain adjuvants (sp?) unless that is a huge outbreak and they have to make a lot quickly. They will also offer pregnant women a mercury-free version.

    I keep going backing and forth. Now I am leaning towards getting the H1N1 vaccine as my doctor recommends.

    I usually don't take any drugs at all while pregnant, not even tylenol if I have a headache. I tend to be overly careful about such things, so the vaccine really scares me. But swine flu scares me too.

    August 29, 2009 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ingrid

    Will this year's flu shot AND the swine flu vaccine have adjuvent-free (i.e. thimerosol –no mercury preservative) for pregnant women to receive? WHEN is the best time in a pregnancy to receive these vaccinations, after the first trimester????

    September 1, 2009 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Amilia

    Hello I am pregnant with my third baby , I have a 8 year old who is in school and a 3 year I am very concerned about the flu shot and the H1N1 vaccine, I newer had a flu shot neither did my kids and we newer had the flu my mother in law got the flu shot last year and she got the flu almost right after the shot so I am very afraid of both I don't know what to do if you have any ideas what to do please let me know
    Thank You so much...

    September 3, 2009 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kari Ann

    Stephanie, I am right there with you. I am a stay at home mom of a homeschooled 6 year old. My husband, however, is a public school teacher and often brings home many illness to us (even if he does not get very ill from it). I recently miscarried and I am now early on in another pregnancy.

    I'd really like to have the answers to Peter Herman's (August 18th, 2009 1:34 pm ET) entry- "Is the swine flu vaccine a live modified viral vaccine or a killed viral vaccine? Where can I find the results of testing for this vaccine on [or for] pregnant women [and their unborn child]?" Dr. Aldis can you provide this? Not to be an alarmist but I want facts and research. Not just someone, some doctor or the CDC saying it is the best option. Also, how can one be sure the vaccination is thimirasol free or free from other harmful ingredients?

    Craig, my husband & I are thinking we may be leaning the same way as you and your wife on this issue. He is considering staying at his parents for a the months during the trouble-zone-time with our daughter and I staying isolated at our home from the rest of the world until this all plays out or blows over. What a hard thing to do though....groceries on the door step and not spending time together even over the holidays. It sounds extreme to me but the options don't sound very appealing either. How wonderful a vaccination would be if it could be trusted not to cause problems. There just doesn't seem to be enough un-debatable hard evidence to support it is REASONABLY safe, I understand it cannot be proven PERFECTLY safe.

    Paula Rothstein, I so worry about the points you bring up. AND

    Denver Wilson, you offer a very sobering thought....

    However, I just looked this up. As of Sept. 4, 2009 according to this article at http://www.thebody.com/content/news/art53570.html
    there have only been 2,837 reported deaths from H1N1 worldwide! With 6,940,012,686 people in the world (per the 9/4/09 calculation of http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop ) I'm not convinced H1N1 is a serious of a problem as is being made of it. Serious enough to risk taking a vaccination as a pregnant woman when the vaccination has not been tested for safety of the unborn, nor for possible long-term effects like birth defects.

    And if I was to take the vaccination and there was medical problem as a result, apparently there is no insurance claim to be made to cover the possible life-long medical care that may result for my child or me. That is what the ability to sue gives, the financial ability to provide adequate medical care for the caused conditions. The pharmaceutical companies are somehow granted immunity to such lawsuits?

    Even being able to sue back in the 1979 for the problems associated with the swine flu vaccine given, the lady on this 60 minutes show was not doing so well, physically or legally. The government didn't disclose the known possible problems then, I am not so sure I could feel comfortable trusting they would now.

    I'd definitely have to say I'm leaning away from that hypodermic needle. Convince me otherwise if the above is somehow wrong.....

    September 4, 2009 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. John W. Aldis, MD

    Kari Ann,
    Wow. Your questions are all over the place. You freely match the miniscule risk from the vaccine against the potentially very serious risk from the disease itself, and you appear to be having trouble seeing the huge imbalance there.

    If you want to wait until testing is complete on pregnant women and their unborn children for this particular vaccine (novel H1N1) to be assured that there are no untoward sequelae, you will have to wait until at least a year (probably several years) for a “definite” answer. Keep in mind that none of the yearly seasonal vaccines are put through that sort of testing before it is released because the vaccines would be out-dated before the testing was done.

    I am sure you also understand that doing a prospective, double-blinded placebo-controlled study of any vaccine against influenza in pregnant women would probably be unethical, so the publish data shows data from populations of women who received the vaccine.

    As you know, the proposed H1N1 vaccine is the same type and manufactured the same way as the seasonal vaccine we give out every year. The seasonal flu vaccine is both very safe and very efficacious. Note that I say “very” safe and efficacious, not “completely” safe and efficacious. And yes; there is plenty of “un-debatable hard evidence” (i.e., controlled clinical trials) to support it is also REASONABLY safe. Actually, the evidence shows it is much better than “reasonably” safe.

    Put another way (as I said in my first note), it is MUCH safer than the infection.

    The vaccine is produced by getting a harmless laboratory strain to take on the antigenic (antibody-inducing) outer coat of the flu virus. This new laboratory virus is then grown in eggs. The outer coat (with the specific antigens) is then stripped off and purified to produce the vaccine.

    Again, this is the same process as is used each year with the seasonal flu vaccine. There is no live virus or even whole (killed) virus in the vaccine – just the antigens from the virus coat.

    The manufacturers are being asked to produce a supply of thimersol-free vaccine. This will have to be shipped in single-dose vials (more expensive) since the preservative (the thimersol) is not included. Again, I am not aware of any study showing any risk in pregnancy from vaccine that contains thimersol, but I have no doubt that there are people who claim that. Nevertheless, a great effort is being made to address those concerns in the general public.

    BTW, I don’t feel it is my responsibility to “convince” you to do something you do not want to do. That is not a doctor’s job. Rather, I am trying to explain some of the relative risks and benefits you need to weigh.

    John W. Aldis, MD
    AAFP, MPH & Tropical Medicine

    September 7, 2009 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Teri

    I am 20 weeks pregnant and I plan on getting both the regular flu vaccine ( I get it every year ) and I plan on getting the H1N1 vaccine also as soon as it becomes available. I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks at this point. It's scary to hear of all these pregnancy complications and even deaths that have resulted from this, and it's not even the height of flu season. I wish every pregnant woman well this fall and winter, and to have happy healthy babies and families.

    September 10, 2009 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. jackie HARDING

    we just started testing on pregnant women in their second and third trimesters, right? well, the babies haven't been born yet, so how do we know if there is a side effect? i wish we would've started testing when the first swine flu cases surfaced. i just found out that we are expecting, and my doctors appointment is in a couple weeks.

    September 10, 2009 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kim

    No offense to Dr. Aldis, but you almost seem offended that pregnant women have concerns re: this vaccine. I too am pregnant for the first time and have all of the same concerns and vacillate from day to day. No mother wants to pose a risk to her unborn, but there just isn't enough history with this flu or vaccine to feel completely at ease. Most people at odds, like myself, never get the flu. The country is in the same panic mode as it was in a few years back with the bird flu and that came and went. In two years, will be something else??? I am grateful to the medical community for all it's hard work and dedication to our welfare, but I think everyone's concern is valid. You seem very passionate and that is reassuring, but I'm still at odds with it!

    September 11, 2009 at 04:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. emma

    I'm pregnant with my 2nd child, and I am very fearful of the H1N1 vaccine. As others commented, I too wonder if my unborn fetus could be born with a birth defect as a result of the vaccine. The year I got a flu shot, I was sick 4 times and the year I didn't get it, I wasn't sick once! If it gets bad enough, I may end up just having to quarantine myself and my 1st child for a few months and not have contact with anyone, so that I could avoid becoming sick with the swine flu. I would seriously rather do that than get a vaccine for swine flu and end up with a baby who is deformed.....

    September 13, 2009 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. IrisJack

    Dr. Aldis,
    With all do respect, if doing a double-blind placebo controlled test of the vaccine on pregnant women would be unethical...how is it ethical to administer the new vaccine to pregnant women without testing it?!

    September 14, 2009 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. John W. Aldis, MD

    I’m really sorry my feelings were perceived as me being offended by pregnant women choosing not to take the influenza vaccine. That is not at all how I feel.

    I delivered a lot of babies earlier in my career; I have two daughters of my own; and since my father was an obstetrician, I have lived with obstetrics all my life. I have seen birth defects (none, fortunately, from vaccines), but I have also been very close to situations where pregnant women got influenza. My grandmother almost died in 1918 when she went into premature labor while serving as a missionary in India. (The baby, Emelie, died stillborn.) My father had only two maternal deaths in his entire career, and one of them was a perfectly healthy woman with a perfectly normal pregnancy – until she got “normal” influenza. It was quite a few years ago, but I recalled the tragedy almost killed my father.

    Flu vaccines were not an option then. But when I seem “offended,” I’m only trying to make the point that we know quite a bit about this virus and quite lot about what it does in pregnancy. We also have many years of experience with vaccines produced in the same companies and using the same manufacturing procedures.

    It might be said that I have no right to bring my own very personal anecdotes into this discussion, but it is those stories which taught me to feel some passion about this subject.

    No doctor I know ever wants a patient to feel forced into doing something they don’t want to do, but those same doctors are very worried about this problem.

    John W. Aldis, MD
    AAFP, MPH & Tropical Medicine

    September 14, 2009 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Amy L. Jarvis, MD

    As an expectant mother to be going into my third trimester in October, as well as a physician in the ICU and ED, I can tell you that I am quite concerned about the swine flu. I have seen first hand how quickly it can spread before anyone has even recognized it as flu, and how serious it can be for anyone with health problems. I also recognize first hand tht my immune system is not at all as strong as it was pre-pregnancy, and I feel particularly vulnerable. I will also share that I will get the H1N1 vaccine, preferably without thimerosal preservative, as there have been reports about thimerosal's ability to permeate the blood brain barrier in both mother and fetus.

    As far as Guillan Barre Syndrome, I am a neurologist, and I can tell you that it is an extremely rare complication, albeit quite serious. Most of the GBS cases I treat have not had any association with a vaccination but rather an upper respiratory or gastrointestinal illness.

    At the end of the day, it is all of our responsibilities to weigh the risks and benefits. In a recent study of over 2000 pregnant women, the swine flu vaccine (with thimerosal) was shown not to adversely affect mother or baby. By the time the thimerosal is in the actual individual vaccine, it is highly diluted. What will it do to our children down the line? We have no idea. But then again, the chemical additives that most pregnant women place into their bodies on a daily basis alone from fast food, sodas, etc, are probably far worse and taken completely for granted.

    Just my two cents worth, from a super high risk pregnant female physician on the front line who has studied the literature extensively and is trying to make the best informed decision for my baby and myself.

    Amy L. Jarvis MD

    September 15, 2009 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Nancy

    As a pregnant mother of a 3-yr old in daycare, I have been debating whether or not to get the shot. I didn't think much about contracting the H1N1 virus before I was pregnant. Now that I am pregnant and have a child in daycare, the risk increases greatly.

    I was at a child's birthday party over the weekend, and I found out after the fact that 4 children from this other daycare have gotten the H1NI strain. After this close call, and the fact that I have a pre-existing respiratory condition, I think the benefits outweigh the risks of the vaccine for me personally.

    If you don't have small children, or come in contact with large groups of people, then you may be ok not getting the vaccine. Or maybe you have your husband and children vaccinated instead. At the very least, keep washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer when out in public.

    September 15, 2009 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. MLS

    I am pregnant and due the first week of November with my first child. I have never recieved the flu shot in the past but have debated obtaining the shot this year as a result of the attention the swine flu has recieved, particularly as it relates to pregnant women. I have asked multiple doctors in my OBGYN group who all instantly said yes get both flu shots when available. However, I cannot shake the feeling that I am not 100% comfortable with the known effects of the vaccine on my child. There are not enough studies performed and most of them appear to be very short term in nature. I keep hearing about all of these children with odd allergies (i.e. how can schools not allow childred to bring in peanut butter sandwiches) or those diagnosed with behavioral issues and wonder where is it all coming from. Could the flu shot have side effects on unborn or young children? I have yet to see a study to convince me that it is safe. It is a difficult decision because you want to protect your baby but it would be very difficult to live with the fact that this vaccine could have side effects on your child which will not be visible or directly traceable to the vaccine; as a mother it will always be in the back of your mind.

    September 15, 2009 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kelly

    Ughhh!!! This is all so scary! I too like many people on here am pregnant for the first time, due in December and am a school teacher who will be around many germs. I have never had the flu shot, never wanted it and never got the flu.

    The Swine flu vaccine is a very scary thing. I have been told that it is worse than agent orange. I have also received articles that something in the vaccine is associated with Autism.

    I was so happy to read someone else say " I don't want to be a guinea pig" thats exactly the way I feel.

    I wash my hands about 3 million times a day and am much more careful not to scratch my eyes and put my hands near my mouth.

    I am electing not to get the vaccine and have discussed it with my doctor. She didn't seem thrilled, saying I was high risk, but she also said she won't make anyone do something they are not comfortable with....

    Stay healthy all!!!

    September 16, 2009 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Kim

    Dr. Aldis,
    I am sorry that you've experienced the losses you have related to Influenza which speaks to your passion and experience. No need to apologize as I think we are all just trying to wrap our heads around this information and people like you and Dr. Jarvis are the insight we need! Everything you've said, as well as the others who have posted here is information that I'm taking in... Again, thank you for sharing and I pray we all make the best and safest decisions for all of us. I'm still so on the fence, but everyone's input has been very helpful!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. CP

    John W. Aldis, MD you provide absolutely no support, unless you consider your rude, judgemental comments as supportive of your stance? Why not provide data to help people understand than being insulting.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. CP

    Dr. Amy L Jarvis–thank you for your informed and supportive entry. Some more references of where you got your information would be helpful–so much hear say. But I disagree that soda (which I do not drink pregnant or not is less harmful than mercury....) LIve and learn Aldis.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Kari Ann

    Oh, one last thought.
    It is important to consider and weigh the benefits and harm that could ensue in any situation when pregnant. The tamiflu issue Dr. Aldis mentioned, taking such medication could harm the fetus, yes. No studies to prove it safe. However, if you chose to not get the shots and get the flu, you are at ground zero all over in making the best decision as to do in that situation. You can't go back and get the flu shot; you have to proceed making the beast decisions you can.

    I can't remember what I came down with now when I was pregnant with my 6 year old but I got something bacterial. I was prescribed antibiotics. It is known that they can cause white spots on the developing child’s teeth! But the infections could so far worse! She has white spots on her teeth – oh well. She is a happy, lively, smart little girl that brings much joy to her parents and pretty much all that she comes into contact with! This was an easy decision. If only the flu shot decision was as easy and slightly discolored teeth. I'd jump right in line without the wait!

    September 19, 2009 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. B

    I cannot say that I feel 100% percent on the new swine flu vaccine either. Everyone's comments are definitely food for thought. For everyone who elects NOT to receive either the seasonal or swine flu vaccine, however, please keep yourself and your family (kids) home if you are coming down with something. Unfortunately, neither of my children (2 & 4) can receive flu vaccines due to allergies and asthma. This also means they are at higher risk for complications should they contract the flu. Please remember that even if you choose NOT to receive the vaccines, other may not have the CHOICE. Each person has to make their own decision; just don't put others at risk if you do become sick.

    September 20, 2009 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. candace

    wow, there are deff alot of opinions about wheather or not to get the shot...i too am pregnant with my second child, and i DO NOT plan on gettin the shot..reason bein that most doctors tell u not to take anything into your body while pregnant and now they say to take the flu shot? When i was pregnant with my first son they did not give me anything not even a seasonal flu shot so why now? I do not trust it....

    September 21, 2009 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Ash

    I am also one of those woman who are pregnant for the first time .. I am 3 months and I have NEVER got the flu shot in my life . I am very scared and optimistic about it especially the H1N1 shot. I have heard of so many people ( including ppl I know personally) who have never got it and when they did they were so sick for weeks on end .. So I understand being pregnant it might be safer to get the shot but what if I"m one of those people who react bad to it and I get EXTREMELY sick from it? I have a bad immune system before I got pregnant ( only for common colds and sinus colds) never got the flu before . I understand that if you have a fever when pregnant it can harm the baby ... So now what do I do??. Any comments on this?

    September 21, 2009 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. S

    Candace, I like your point! Why now? I 26 weeks pregnant with my first and I am like everybody else debating on whatever to get the shot or not. Somebody on here mentioned that getting regular and swine flu vaccine is a 5 week process. If I were to get the vaccine today it's not even going to work until I am like 31 weeks. And, the vaccine is not even available yet. Therefore, i am wondering if it's worth it.... Oh well, good luck everyone, stay HEALTHY!!!!

    September 21, 2009 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. ds

    I got the flu vaccine once, and that season was the sickest (with the flu)–by far–I've ever been in my life. Coincidence? Maybe! I really don't know. But that experience has led me never to get another one, despite the fact that I'm a college professor and my husband is a teacher, so we come into contact with plenty of germs.

    Now I'm 9 weeks pregnant and like many of you wondering what to do re. swine and regular flu vaccines. But the fact is, whatever each of us decides, statistics are on our side. *Most* people will not get the swine flu, and most people will not have complications from the vaccines. I'm leaning toward not getting the vaccines, but in any case, I just think it's important for us all to try to stay calm, stay well rested, and wash our hands a lot!

    September 27, 2009 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. wsa

    I am 11 weeks pregnant and my family, boyfriend, coworkers, and friends are telling to get the flu shot. I would be ok with it if I wasn't pregnant but I am worried that it hasn't been tested well yet. How do I know that it wont harm my baby and something might turn out wrong with it when it is born?

    September 29, 2009 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dianne

    I am 16 weeks pregnant with my first and a 1st grade teacher in a small mountain rural school. Yesterday we had our first reported case of the swine flu. Many kids are out due to flu like symptoms. I do not have the option of taking off from work early. I must work as long as I can. I don't like my odds of catching the virus. Its easy for those of you who aren't pregnant to bash the vaccine, but if its my chance to keep me and my baby alive I believe its the right choice to make.

    September 30, 2009 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Gina

    How can a pregnant woman get this new flu shot without questioning what she is doing to her unborn child? I am currently pregnant and have been going back and forth about the H1N1 shot. If the government could show me a 3 year old child whose mother had the shot while pregnant I might consider it.

    October 1, 2009 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Brittany

    I am 22 weeks pregnant and will be going through the duration of the flu season pregnant but I honestly do not think that I will be recieving the H1N1 virus vaccination...I am too worried about what the side effects could be on my baby and I can not see putting him at risk for any potential birth defects. When you're pregnant you're supposed to be eating healthier and in turn helping your body grow stronger to support you and your baby. I plan to talk to my doctor and ask her if she has any information to prove that this is safe for me and my baby until then I plan to stock up on my hand sanitizer and become more conscious of washing my hands when I am in public and try to live as healthy as I possibly can without the risk of the vaccination.

    October 2, 2009 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Krystal

    Im 7 months pregnant and my boss says I needs a swine flu shot. Is it safe for me and my baby. I just dont want nothing to happen to me or my child. I need to know the answer to my question. Is there any long term affects. I have to take the shot soon or I can work no more til I get the shot. Thank you and god bless!

    October 8, 2009 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Cindy

    I WILL be getting the H1N1 vaccine. I have already had my flu shot this year and I am 16 weeks along. I already lost my first son. He was stillborn at 34 weeks. I will do anything to prevent that from happening again. Usually I like to wait and see the flaws come out in something before going through with it, however I don't want to go through the pain of loss again. My OB recommends it and if she says to get it I am. I at least know there won't be a shortage with everyone who says they're not getting one.

    October 9, 2009 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Denise

    I'm very concerned about H1N1 because I am pregnant. I have done a lot of research and will definitely get both flu shots. I will protect myself and my unborn child by getting the shots. The risks are too high not to get immunized. If the swine flu had shown up just a few months earlier, this strain would just have been included in the regular flu shot. So, I simply get two shots instead of one this year.

    October 13, 2009 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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