December 1-7: National Influenza Vaccination Week

Flu virus infection triggers inflammation in your body. Severe inflammation can cause lung damage and other serious problems. Everyone 6 months and older needs flu vaccine each year. Learn more from the CDC.

Call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 to schedule flu vaccines for you and your family as soon as possible!

Pregnant Women Should Get Flu and Whooping Cough Shots

If pregnant women don’t get vaccinated, they may be endangering their babies as well as themselves.

Call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 to schedule your flu and Tdap vaccines locally.

Millions of pregnant women in the United States are not getting two vital vaccines that protect not only their health, but their babies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said October 8th, 2019.

The vaccines — against flu and whooping cough — are strongly recommended during every pregnancy. But only about 35 percent of pregnant women in the country are receiving both vaccines, according to a new CDC report, and just over half receive one.

The consequences of missing vaccines for flu and whooping cough, also called pertussis, can be dire.

“Influenza and pertussis, or whooping cough, are serious infections that can be deadly for babies, especially for those who are too young to be vaccinated directly,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC in a briefing. “We are stressing the importance of two safe and effective vaccines for pregnant women and the risks to both women and their babies when these vaccines are not given during pregnancy.”

Whooping cough can be fatal, especially for babies, who cannot get their first vaccine against it until they are two months old. The CDC report said that about 70 percent of people who died from whooping cough in recent years were infants younger than two months.

“When infants get whooping cough they are usually very sick and have difficulty breathing, eating, drinking or sleeping,” Dr. Schuchat said. “Parents may see their baby gasping for air and even turning blue from lack of oxygen.”

When a woman receives the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, antibodies are transmitted to the fetus. Those antibodies protect babies when they are born until they can build up their own immunity from a series of five immunizations against the disease. The report said that if women receive the vaccination early in the third trimester of pregnancy, it gives their newborns optimal protection and will prevent nearly 80 percent of whooping cough cases in babies under two months old.

Flu can be particularly risky for pregnant women and can cause complications like premature birth. The report found that pregnant women account for about a quarter to a third of women of reproductive age who are hospitalized for influenza — even though only about 9 percent of women in that age group are pregnant in any given year.

Babies younger than six months — the age at which they can receive their first flu vaccine — are hospitalized from flu much more often than older children and are at greater risk of dying from it. Dr. Schuchat said infants with flu can develop problems like pneumonia, dehydration and swelling of the brain.

“Maternal immunization rates have been steadfastly stuck at about 50 percent,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chairwoman of the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new report. “We really haven’t moved the needle at all.”

The new report analyzed data on hospitalization and death from flu and whooping cough between 2010 and 2018. The researchers also conducted an online survey this past spring of about 2,600 women who reported being pregnant any time since August 2018. It asked whether the women’s health care providers recommended the vaccines, either by offering to provide them or referring the patients to someone who could, and whether the women agreed to get vaccinated.

About three-quarters of the women surveyed said that during pregnancy their providers recommended the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. But even among those women, about a third did not get vaccinated, the report said.

The most common reason the women gave for not getting the flu vaccine was a belief it was not effective. The reason they gave most often for not getting the Tdap vaccine was not knowing it is necessary during each pregnancy. For both vaccines, the second most common reason women refused it was concern about whether it was safe for their babies, the report said.

Dr. Jamieson, a former CDC official who now practices obstetrics and gynecology at Grady Memorial Hospital, said that pregnant patients in her practice who declined to get the flu vaccine often said, “they heard bad things about the vaccine, misconceptions that it makes you sick or wasn’t safe,” she said. Some didn’t think they were at risk for flu she said.

Dr. Jamieson said women were generally more likely to accept the Tdap vaccine, possibly because it is newer so there are fewer misconceptions about it. The flu vaccine has been recommended in pregnancy since 1960, Dr. Jamieson said, but the Tdap has only been recommended for pregnant women since 2012.

Vaccines for flu and whooping cough are the only two immunizations recommended for all pregnant women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which posts a list of vaccines that are considered unsafe in pregnancy and others that can be given under certain circumstances.

Article adapted from the New York Times by Pam Belluck.

GET THE FACTS ABOUT FLU SHOTS

Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment for your FREE flu shot at the Malheur County Health Department before the end of October.

Flu season is nearly here. To help you decide when, where, and how to get vaccinated, we compiled answers to some of the most common questions we see regarding flu vaccinations.

Who should get a flu shot?

Everyone over 6 months of age should receive a flu vaccine yearly, unless a doctor has advised otherwise.

But I’m healthy and getting the flu doesn’t seem like a big deal. Why do I need a flu shot?

No one wants to miss out on their vacation or be two weeks behind at work because of a preventable illness. So while you may be able to get through the flu, why take the risk?

During the 2017-2018 flu season, influenza vaccination prevented approximately 7 million flu illnesses, 109,000 flu hospitalizations, and 8,000 flu deaths.

Even if you’re young and healthy, the flu can lead to serious complications that require hospitalization. Getting vaccinated not only helps prevent you from getting ill, it also decreases the severity of illness if you do get the flu and helps protect those around you who cannot receive the shot because of their age or underlying conditions, such as your grandma or your neighbor’s new baby.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot?

No, flu shots do not cause the flu. This is a common concern but, thankfully, not something that happens.

Flu vaccines given via a needle are made with inactivated (killed) viruses that are not infectious or with just certain proteins from flu viruses, so they cannot cause the flu. And, the nasal spray flu vaccine is made with live viruses that are significantly weakened, so they can give protection but not cause illness.

While vaccinations cannot cause the flu, some people do experience mild side effects, including aches and a low-grade fever. However, when these side effects occur, they are generally mild and tend to last only a day or two.

When should I get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age receive a flu shot by the end of October. Flu activity generally picks up in the fall and it’s best to get the shot before the virus starts spreading in your community and workplace.

Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season. All children who have previously gotten two doses of vaccine (at any time) only need one dose of vaccine this season. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available.

The flu season usually peaks around February, and can last well into the spring. So, even if you miss the recommended window, it is still worth getting vaccinated later in the season.

What’s the benefit of getting a shot now?

It takes two weeks from the time you receive your flu shot to develop full immunity. The sooner you get the shot, the sooner your body can build that full immunity.

Should I get a flu shot if I’m pregnant?

Yes, flu vaccines are safe for pregnant people. They help to protect both the pregnant individual and their baby from the flu.

During pregnancy, people experience changes in their immune system, heart, and lungs that make them more prone to severe illness from flu. According to the CDC, vaccination reduces this risk of serious, flu-associated respiratory infection and hospitalization in those who are pregnant. In addition, pregnant people who receive the flu vaccine are helping to protect their babies from flu illness for several months after their birth, when they are still too young to be vaccinated themselves. 

What if I’m over 65 years old?

The flu can be particularly serious for people 65 and older because human immune defenses weaken with age. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu and potentially serious complications.

There are two vaccines that are specifically recommended for people who are 65 years of age or older: the “high dose” vaccine and the “adjuvanted” flu vaccine, Fluad. Both options have been found to be effective at preventing the flu and the CDC does not state a preference for one vaccine over another. The regular flu shot is also a good option if these products are not available.

Where can I get a flu shot?

If you are local to Malheur County, Oregon, come see us at the Malheur County Health Department! Call ahead for an appointment: 541-889-7279. Walk ins are welcome.

You can use the online HealthMap Vaccine Finder or Public Health’s Find an Immunization Clinic page to easily find nearby pharmacy and clinic locations to get your flu shot. Remember to call ahead to ensure that the vaccine you need is currently available, especially if you are interested in the nasal spray flu vaccine or the intradermal flu vaccine.

If you still have questions about flu vaccinations or want to know more, check out our past blog post on flu vaccination effectiveness  or CDC’s FAQ’s about the 2019-2020 flu season.

Article adapted from Public Health Insider post by Lily Alexander. Photos taken by Heather Hazzan as a part of the Self x American Academy of Pediatrics Vaccine Photo Project.