Research Reveals Importance of Whooping Cough, Flu Vaccines for Pregnant Women - Dream Health

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Thursday 1 February 2018

Research Reveals Importance of Whooping Cough, Flu Vaccines for Pregnant Women


Maternal Immunisation

Australia had faced the worst flu time of year on record in 2017 wherein infants, together with children and elderly had been most vulnerable to influenza virus. As per Dr Annette Regan, an award winning research tends to target maternal child health, its seriousness for pregnant women in getting the flu vaccine and pertussis – whooping cough, vaccine to safeguard themselves together with their unborn children from potentially fatal illnesses which is a practise called `maternal immunisation’.

The vaccine for flu and whooping cough are rendered free of cost for pregnant women. The health effect of influenza and whooping cough very often has been underestimated though both the viruses could be the cause of devastating complication or also death in the susceptible population. Providing vaccine to pregnant women against the viruses helps in protecting the mother as well as her unborn child.

Antibodies tend to develop in response to the vaccine which helps in protecting the mother from infection and who in turn will transfer these antibodies to her child through her placenta. This helps in protecting the enfant till the child is adequately old to be immunised. This defence has been defined as the `ultimate birthday gift’, from a mother to her child.

Risk of Serious Complication

Regan commented that when the immune system of pregnant women tends to get somewhat depressed, and if they get an infection it could be much more severe and there is every possibility of influencing the unborn child. He further added that pregnant women together with their infants tend to be a high risk of serious complications from respiratory infections such as influenza.

It is for this purpose, influenza and pertussis vaccines have been suggested presently at the time of pregnancy. Influenza vaccines could be administered at any stage during pregnancy and pertussis vaccine is given between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The vaccine tends to protect the mother against the infection as well as prevent serious infection to their infants during their initial first month of life.

Babies can be prevented from being fatally ill from maternal vaccination. Riley Hughes a Perth-born baby is considered to be one of the most prominent victims of whooping cough.

At three weeks of age, in 2015, Riley had suffered from what seemed to be a cold though was suffering from whooping cough. He had been instantly hospitalised at Princess Margaret Hospital though had developed pneumonia and inspite of being treated, had a tragic death at four weeks of age.

Immunisation Foundation of Australia

The Western Australian State Government had launched a program for pregnant women, two days later after his death, to access free pertussis booster shots in their third trimester of pregnancy. Catherine and Greg Hughes, the parents of Riley, had established the Immunisation Foundation of Australia and campaign and advocate for the importance of vaccinefor pregnant women as well as the National Immunisation Program Schedule for children and infants.

In spite of the availability of free flu as well as whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women and the documented safety of this vaccine, the main hurdle to maternal vaccination was lack of guidance from treating healthcare professionals. Regan stated that `by far the biggest factor influencing whether women will get vaccinated during pregnancy or not, is whether her healthcare provider recommends it to her.

Almost 80 percent state that they would be vaccinated if their provider had suggested it to them. Moreover there is a perception that vaccination does not seem essential since women are not usually aware of the austerity of these diseases. Women also mentioned concern with regards to safety of the vaccine to their baby and probable side effects, as a reason why they opted not to be vaccinated.
Study – National Attention
Vaccines can be an apprehensive topic among members of the community who are of the belief that vaccinations could cause health issues or developmental differences, like Autism Spectrum Disorder in infants or children. No reliable studies are available to support that vaccinations could cause health issues or developmental differences in infants and young children. The vaccine is considered to be protective both to the mother and the health of the baby according to Regan’s research validates. Regan had also stated that there are some anti-vaccine groups who are of the belief that vaccination at the time of pregnancy is not safe and could be linked with birth defects such as microcephaly which is not true. There have been several studies indicating that influenza and pertussis vaccines are safe to mothers as well as their infants. PhD study of Regan – Seasonal Trivalent Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy and the Incidence of Stillbirth: Population-Based Retrospective Cohort Study that linked data sources from 60,000 births in Western Australia between 2012 and 2013 portrayed pregnant women having flu vaccine faced half the risk of stillbirth in comparison to unvaccinated women. The study brought about a national attention resulting in an increase in maternal immunisation.
Regan – Aileen Plant Memorial Prize
She further stated that the results received plenty of media attention and had been publicized via social media. Most of the women in parenting blogs such as Mama Mia and on the Light for Riley page had commented saying that they had booked their influenza vaccine since they had heard of the study. Considering that less than two-thirds of women receive an influenza vaccine every year, encouraging more women to get vaccinated seems to be fantastic result. Regan had been awarded the esteemed Aileen Plant Memorial Prize in Infectious DiseaseEpidemiology in 2017 for her PhD research. Till 2015 when the death of Riley Hughes had shown a substance for maternal vaccinations, pregnant women had not received flu or whooping cough vaccine. There was restricted data on how these vaccinations influenced the health of the children in the long term. Regan is presently researching in this area in partnership with a Canadian colleague, Associate Professor Deshayne Fell, University of Ottawa. She has commented that though maternal vaccination is not a new concept by any means, till 2015 few pregnant women had received these vaccines. As a consequence, little is known regarding the long-term health effects on children.

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