Pregnant women and babies most at risk of influenza, whooping cough

says Taranaki DHB

4 June 2015

Taranaki DHB are encouraging pregnant woman to get free influenza and whooping cough vaccinations this winter and hold a weekly clinic, where mothers and babies can receive their vaccinations. 

Karen Janes, Taranaki DHB Antenatal Clinic Coordinator said, “These are highly contagious illnesses which can lead to life threatening complications. Among those most at risk are pregnant women and their babies. The good news is they are largely preventable by getting vaccinated.”

According to the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland, pregnant women who are not vaccinated against influenza are 18 times more likely to be hospitalised due to influenza. The risk of life-threatening complications and ongoing illness (both during pregnancy and after the birth) for both mother and child is even higher when there are pre-existing medical conditions.

“Influenza vaccines have been given to pregnant women since the 1960s”, said Mrs Janes. “The World Health Organisation recommends influenza vaccination for pregnant women regardless of any trimester and that they be given the highest priority. It can also be given to women who are breastfeeding. Expectant mothers are recommended to be vaccinated for whooping cough when they are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.”

There are a number of common misconceptions about influenza vaccination. Some may think that the vaccination will give them influenza or that it is only useful for people with medical conditions.

“There is no live virus within the vaccine, so it cannot give you the flu,” said Mrs Janes. “Vaccination in pregnant women has been found to be highly effective in preventing influenza and its complications, and also for their babies for a short time after birth.”

Anyone can carry the influenza virus and pass it on to others without having any visible symptoms. Even if a person appears healthy, they might be risking the lives of others around them as the virus can be passed on via contaminated surfaces or even in the air. The reality of this level of contagiousness is that there’s no real way to safe guard yourself and those around you other than to be vaccinated.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre also stated that 50 percent of babies that catch whooping cough before the age of 12 months require hospitalisation. Mrs Janes said, “Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and even death. New Zealand has whooping cough epidemics every 3-5 years with several thousand cases (mostly young children) reported in each epidemic.”

“Babies cannot receive whooping cough vaccinations until they are six weeks old and flu vaccinations until they are six months old; therefore they are at risk of serious illness until they are old enough to be vaccinated. That is why it is really important as many people as possible are vaccinated,” she added.

“Taranaki DHB works closely with primary care organisations, hospital services, outreach immunisation services, the National Immunisation Register and Well Child Providers on strategies to help improve immunisation rates, including early enrolment of new-borns with a GP,” said Mrs Janes.

A drop in vaccination clinic for pregnant women is available every Tuesday from 2-3pm at the Antenatal clinic at Taranaki Base Hospital, for both influenza and whooping cough vaccinations.

For further information about influenza and the associated risks, visit http://www.influenza.org.nz/ or http://www.fightflu.co.nz/.

For more information please call:

Greer Lean
Communications Advisor
027 801 9084

 

Last updated: Thursday, June 4, 2015

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