Any kind of illness during pregnancy can be dangerous. This is also true in the case of influenza. Not many people know an influenza attack during pregnancy can put the adult and the fetus at a higher risk of complications. In fact, studies have shown that a flu attack during pregnancy can result in changes in the immune system, heart and lung defects, and neural tube defects.
The best way to avoid this is by getting immunized as soon as possible as it protects the mother as well as the baby. Infants under the age of 6 months are not advised to get immunisations as their immune systems are too weak to create the necessary antibodies.
However, they are at high risk of developing serious complications in case of an infection. The best way to provide protection is by the mother getting vaccinated and transferring antibodies to the infant.
The free vaccine is now provided for pregnant women through the NIP or National Immunization Program. It is also recommended for pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy.
Do you really need a vaccine?
Influenza is extremely contagious. It is particularly dangerous for adults over the age of 60, pregnant women, infants and children with compromised immune systems. Vaccinations are a simple and easy way of transferring immunity and ensuring protection against the disease. The more people who are vaccinated, the better the protection for yourself and other people.
Can’t I just avoid the flu?
Yes, you can but this can be risky. Infected people should sneeze into their hands or their elbows. A single sneeze can travel anywhere from 1-2 meters. The sneeze also results in aerosol droplets that contain more than 20,00,000 individual virus particles as far as possible. However, not everyone follows this process. People who are infected may not even know their infected. A single sneeze could infect a pregnant woman resulting in unnecessary pregnancy complications.
What are the benefits of flu vaccine pregnancy for pregnant women?
• There is no flu vaccine cost. The flu vaccine is free of charge
• It transfers immunity to the mother and the developing fetus.
• The vaccine can be given during any stage of pregnancy.
• The vaccine is safe for both mother and infant.
• The best time to get the vaccine is in April or May to ensure maximum protection before the flu season actually starts.
• Flu vaccinations do not give you the infection.
How does the body react on getting the flu immunisation?
The flu vaccine contains a weaker version of the virus. It stimulates the body to produce antibodies that will attack and kill the weaker version of the virus. It takes anywhere from one to two weeks to develop the antibodies. It may take anywhere from two to three weeks for the mother’s body to transfer the recipe for the antibody to the developing fetus.
However, at the same time, when the patient is unintentionally infected with the live virus, these same antibodies will attack and kill the live virus as well. If the patient is pregnant, the antibodies are also shared with the developing fetus resulting in a transferred protection that lasts a lifetime. However, a small percentage of patients will actually develop flu-like symptoms like fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue.
We recommend you get in touch with your physician immediately in case you develop such symptoms. This is because pregnant women are at high-risk of developing symptoms. In case it is recommended your physician may start you on anti-viral medications.
For maximum results, anti-viral medications should be started within 48-hours of developing symptoms. If it takes time to contact a physician and you have developed a fever, paracetamol may prove helpful. However, ensure you contact a physician as soon as possible.
Is there a particular category or age group who should get immunized?
We recommend vaccinations as a preventive measure. Anyone can get the influenza vaccine by talking to their physician. Ideally, flu vaccines should be taken annually as the viral strains tend to mutate every year. To deal with the mutations, new vaccines are made to match and combat the strains.
However, a few core groups are advised annual vaccinations to ensure protection:
• Infants under the age of 6 months and children under the age of 5 years. Both these age groups are provided free vaccines under the NIP.
• Children who are a higher risk of developing serious diseases due to a compromised immune system or who have existing medical conditions.
• Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy are eligible for a free vaccine.
• Adults over the age of 65 are also eligible for the free vaccine.
• Children and adults in any age group
• Women planning a pregnancy
• Adults living or working in assisted-living, aged-care, or long-term facilities.
• Homeless people and workers who interact with them.
• Healthcare personnel.
• People living or working with someone at a high risk of influenza.
• Workers dealing with early childhood education and care
• People intending to travel overseas
• Workers in the chicken or pig industries in case of bird flu or swine flu outbreaks.
Where can I find flu vaccine near me?
Your physician or gynecologist is the best person for this. They will assess your health and recommend the right flu immunization or vaccinations for your needs.
What type of flu vaccine should I get?
There are two kinds of vaccine: nasal mist and injection. The injection contains an inactivated virus that cannot cause the disease. The nasal mist contains a live attenuated vaccine that is not recommended in pregnant women. However, it can be administered in women who have delivered and given birth or who are breastfeeding.
Are there any people who should not take the vaccine?
If you already have allergies to vaccinations, it is not recommended to take vaccinations. Discuss your allergies with your physician before you take the vaccine. In case you develop symptoms for the first time like hives, facial and body swelling, breathing difficulties, dizziness and fatigue, you should contact your physician immediately or visit a hospital immediately.