Is there a connection between Canada’s annual flu shot with low-weight and premature births? Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax seem to think so, who argue that an overwhelming misunderstanding of the flu shot drives many pregnant mothers away from the vaccine.
The research team was led by Alexandra Legge, a fourth year medical student who worked closely with senior physicians and a perinatal epidemiologist to examine the data. First, the team reviewed a number of facts:
· Administered flu shots in Nova Scotia were highest in 2009 at the height of the H1N1 virus
· During the outbreak, 64 percent of pregnant women in the province rolled up their sleeves for the shot
· Since then, the annual number of expecting mothers accepting the flu shot fell to 16 percent
Public health officials advise pregnant women to accept the flu shot. Concerns that the vaccine is dangerous in certain trimesters are unfounded according to these officials. Legge argues that the flu shot reduces the likelihood of preterm or low-weight births.
“The theory would be that perhaps the vaccine is exerting a protective effect on the fetus by averting infection and therefore avoiding the systemic inflammatory response.”
In Legge’s study, the research results showed that:
· 1,960 pregnant women in a group of 12,000 between November 2010 and March 2012 got the flu shot
· Those women had a 25 percent reduced chance of a premature or low-weight birth
· Women in rural Nova Scotia and with diagnosed medical conditions were more likely to get the shot
· Women who already have babies are less likely to get the shot
Legge hopes the results of the study will encourage more pregnant women, as well as more Canadians to acquire the flu shot each and every season.
“I think our focus needs to be on better elucidating what the reasons are for low vaccination uptake and to then look at strategies for improving that uptake.”