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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Health

Brooks Blanton

Atlanta, GA

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Pregnant Women and The H1N1 Vaccine

October 28, 2009 - 4:54 PM | by: Brooks Blanton

Being on a priority list for the H1N1 vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean that you can get it right away. Pregnant women across the country say they are having a hard time finding the vaccine and some desperate Moms-to-be are considering driving thousands of miles to find it.

Because of a weakened immune system that comes along with pregnancy, expectant mothers are more vulnerable to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 700 pregnant women have contracted the H1N1 Flu so far this year. But what’s more alarming is that 100 pregnant women have ended up in hospital Intensive Care Units and at least 28 have died.

When the H1N1 pandemic started last Spring, Health Officials listed several groups as a priority to get vaccinated this fall. Pregnant women were on that list. But some say being shifted to the front of vaccination lines does no good when the vaccine is in limited supply everywhere.

Doctors, hospitals and clinics from California to Massachusetts say shipments of the vaccine are finally starting to trickle in but it still isn’t enough to cover even the priority groups like pregnant women and medically fragile children. Dr. Jennifer Lyman, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist in Decatur, Georgia says her practice ordered 1500 doses of the H1N1 vaccine several weeks ago. Just this week, 300 doses finally arrived at her office and they are in high demand.

“I think we are just starting to give them to everybody. I told patients who were here last week to call this week, so I can have all my patients get their shots,” says Dr. Lyman.

Emory Hosptial in Atlanta finally received a shipment at their Midtown campus after weeks of fielding calls from anxious mothers-to-be. Janelle Trammell was one of the first in line to get vaccinated here. Initially she passed on the idea of getting vaccinated, thinking she was healthy enough and would not vulnerable to the virus. But after reading about a mother who passed away from flu complications after giving birth, Trammel changed her mind.

“I don’t know a lot of details about how old she was or other illnesses but the impression I get is that she was healthy otherwise,” Trammel says. “So I said well, you know in that case, I would rather be safe than sorry.”

Like many pregnant women, Trammel says she was worried about what effect it might have on her unborn baby. A recent Harris Survey of 668 pregnant women showed that Trammel wasn’t alone fearing the new vaccine. The study found 86% of those questioned believed the seasonal flu vaccine to be safe, but only 68% think the H1N1 flu vaccine is safe. Many believe the H1N1 vaccine has not been properly tested.

“I had some reservations at first. I guess in the beginning because anytime there is something new, you always worry,” Janelle Trammel says.

Cindy Harden lives in suburban Atlanta and is 16 weeks pregnant with her first child. She hesitated about the new vaccine at first, but then weighed the risks and decided to get vaccinated.

“For pregnant women, the risk of catching the flu, whether it’s H1N1 or just the regular flu, is going to be more detrimental to your child than if you were to take the vaccine,” Harden says.

Doctors and health officials across the country worry that unfounded fears of the vaccine — coupled with the shortage  — could be harmful to expectant mothers and their unborn babies, driving the death toll of pregnant women well above 28 before this long flu season is finally over.

“We have to constantly have to reassure people that this has been looked at for a long time, this is not a new vaccine,” says Dr. Lyman as she reminds all pregnant women to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “Pregnant women get sicker when they are infected with the regular flu or the swine flu, they are more likely to be hospitalized and they are more likely to die.”

 

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