Low Rates of Vaccination during Pregnancy Leave Moms and Babies Unprotected

2019-10-08 |

Newborns who get influenza (flu) or whooping cough are at high risk of hospitalization and death. According to a new Vital Signs report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority (65%) of mothers-to-be in the United States have not received recommended flu and whooping cough vaccines.

When pregnant women are vaccinated they pass on antibodies to the fetus that provide protection after birth, the time when babies are too young to be vaccinated. The benefits of vaccination are not just for the babies. Pregnant women have more than double the risk of hospitalization compared to non-pregnant women of childbearing age if they get flu.

CDC recommends that all pregnant women should get a flu vaccine during any trimester of each pregnancy and a whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) during the early part of the third trimester of each pregnancy, as part of routine prenatal care.

CDC surveyed nearly 2,100 women ages 18 to 49 who were pregnant any time between August 2018 and April 2019. The results showed the following:

  • 54% of pregnant women reported getting a flu vaccine before or during pregnancy.
  • 55% of women reported receiving Tdap during pregnancy.
  • Women whose health care providers offered or referred them for vaccination had the highest vaccination rates.
  • Black, non-Hispanic women had lower vaccination rates than women of other races and were less likely to report a health care provider offer or referral for vaccination.

Every year, too many babies or their mothers in the United States get vaccine-preventable diseases. A recent study showed that getting a flu shot reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized due to flu by an average of 40%. Flu is also dangerous for babies, especially those younger than 6 months, who are too young to get a flu shot. Babies under 6 months have the highest incidence of flu-associated hospitalizations and highest risk of flu-related death among children. Flu vaccination in pregnant women reduces the risk of hospitalization due to flu in their infants, younger than 6 months old, by an average of 72%.

Whooping cough can also be deadly for babies, especially before they can start getting the childhood whooping cough vaccine at two months old. Two-thirds (67%) of babies younger than two months old who get whooping cough need care in the hospital. Sadly, 7 out of 10 reported whooping cough deaths (69%) occur in this age group. Results show that mothers who get Tdap during the third trimester of pregnancy prevent more than 3 in 4 cases (78%) of whooping cough in babies under two months old. Tdap vaccination during pregnancy is even more effective at preventing hospitalization due to whooping cough in newborns.