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Too few pregnant women receive both influenza and Tdap vaccines



A little over half of pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy or the influenza vaccine before or during pregnancy, but only 35% get both, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The CDC recommends that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation. The flu vaccine is recommended for all women at any point in pregnancy if the pregnancy falls within flu season. Women do not need a second flu shot if they received the vaccine before pregnancy in the same influenza season. Both vaccines provide protection to infants after birth.

“Clinicians caring for women who are pregnant have a huge role in helping women understand risks and benefits and the value of vaccines,” Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC, Atlanta, said in a telebriefing about the new report. “A lot of women are worried about taking any extra medicine or getting shots during pregnancy, and clinicians can let them know about the large data available showing the safety of the vaccine as well as the effectiveness. We also think it’s important to let people know about the risk of not vaccinating.”

Pregnant women are at higher risk for influenza complications and represent a disproportionate number of flu-related hospitalizations. From the 2010-2011 to 2017-2018 influenza seasons, 24%-34% of influenza hospitalizations each season were pregnant women aged 15-44, yet only 9% of women in this age group are pregnant at any point each year, according to the report.

Similarly, infants under 6 months have the greatest risk of hospitalization from influenza, and half of pertussis hospitalizations and 69% of pertussis deaths occur in infants under 2 months old. But a fetus receives protective maternal antibodies from flu and pertussis vaccines about 2 weeks after the mother is vaccinated.

Influenza hospitalization is 40% lower among pregnant women vaccinated against flu and 72% lower in infants under 6 months who received maternal influenza antibodies during gestation. Similarly, Tdap vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy reduces pertussis infection risk by 78% and pertussis hospitalization by 91% in infants under 2 months.

“Infant protection can motivate pregnant women to receive recommended vaccines, and intention to vaccinate is higher among women who perceive more serious consequences of influenza or pertussis disease for their own or their infant’s health,” Megan C. Lindley, MPH, of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, and colleagues wrote in the MMWR report.

In March-April 2019, Ms. Lindley and associates conducted an Internet survey about flu and Tdap immunizations among women aged 18-49 who had been pregnant at any point since August 1, 2018. A total of 2,626 women completed the survey of 2,762 invitations (95% response rate).

Among 817 women who knew their Tdap status during pregnancy, 55% received the Tdap vaccine. Among 2,097 women who reported a pregnancy between October 2018 and January 2019, 54% received the flu vaccine before or during pregnancy.

But many women received one vaccine without the other: 65% of women surveyed had not received both vaccines during pregnancy. Higher immunization rates occurred among women whose clinicians recommended the vaccines: 66% received a flu shot and 71% received Tdap.

“We’re learning a lot about improved communication between clinicians and patients. One thing we suggest is to begin the conversations early.” Dr Schuchat said. “If you begin talking early in the pregnancy about the things you’ll be looking forward to and provide information, by the time it is flu season or it is that third trimester, they’re prepared to make a good choice.”

Most women surveyed (75%) said their providers did offer a flu or Tdap vaccine in the office or a referral for one. Yet more than 30% of these women did not get the recommended vaccine.

The most common reason for not getting the Tdap during pregnancy, cited by 38% of women who didn’t receive it, was not knowing about the recommendation. Those who did not receive flu vaccination, however, cited concerns about effectiveness (18%) or safety for the baby (16%). A similar proportion of women cited safety concerns for not getting the Tdap (17%).

Sharing information early and engaging respectfully with patients are key to successful provider recommendations, Dr Schuchat said.

“It’s really important for clinicians to begin by listening to women, asking, ‘Can I answer your questions? What are the concerns that you have?’ ” she said. “We find that, when a clinician validates a patient’s concerns and really shows that they’re listening, they can build trust and respect.”

Providers’ sharing their personal experience can help as well, Dr Schuchat added. Clinicians can let patients know if they themselves, or their partner, received the vaccines during pregnancy.

Rates for turning down vaccines were higher for black women: 47% received the flu vaccine after a recommendation, compared with 69% of white women. Among those receiving a Tdap recommendation, 53% of black women accepted it, compared with 77% of white women and 66% of Latina women. The authors noted a past study showing black adults had a higher distrust of flu vaccination, their doctor, and CDC information than white adults.

“Differential effects of provider vaccination offers or referrals might also be explained by less patient-centered provider communication with black patients,” Ms. Lindley and associates wrote.

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