In Chile, influenza vaccination in pregnant women has been available since 2004, when the instructions were to start vaccination at 13 weeks; however, the vaccines we currently have can be given at any gestational age because they are reliable for both mother and fetus and safe.
Pregnant women who have not been vaccinated against influenza are at greater risk of respiratory symptoms that may worsen, as well as the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight of the baby and complications associated with these conditions; health teams therefore strongly urge vaccination, preferably from Beginning in the 14th week of pregnancy, especially if the mother has risk factors. Below, three experts from La Serena Hospital explain why this is happening and urge people to trust the vaccine, which is available for free in the country, following the recent hospitalization of pregnant women with pneumonia caused by the flu in the Serena region.
This is confirmed by Dr. Hugo Maldonado, an obstetrician-gynecologist, specialist in maternal-fetal medicine and director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at La Serena Hospital. “We’ve had a number of cases of pneumonia recently involving mothers who were hospitalized for extended periods of time due to the flu and being disconnected from their entire environment.”
Professionals explain that in general, pregnancy affects a woman’s immune system, as the body responds from an immune perspective to accept it as a graft. “This irritates the system, causing it to often overexpress or become depressed; so somehow, if a woman is pregnant, she is more susceptible to more severe infections than others, which makes her a high-risk group,” the specialist said explained.
Midwife Andrea Cavero, Midwifery Manager at Serenense Hospital, noted, “The scientific evidence provided to us by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that regardless of the mother’s gestational age, women who are not pregnant are They are at greater risk; this is primarily due to the risks associated with pregnancy, which causes physiological changes in the cardiorespiratory and immune systems. If we add risk factors such as diabetes, asthma, and obesity, the risk increases. More.”
The 2001 H1N1 influenza pandemic once again confirmed this. High-risk groups of pregnant women were severely affected, and the number of hospitalizations for pneumonia increased significantly. Pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy were among the high-risk groups.
Dr. Aldoaneth Leiva, an infectious disease specialist at the health agency, said: “Pregnant women are at greater risk from all infectious diseases because during this period, the immune system undergoes changes, which means that pregnant women cannot respond as effectively. Especially viral infections, like the ones you might get if you’re not pregnant; so it’s important to get vaccinated during pregnancy so they don’t get more severe disease.”
What are some possible reasons why pregnant women might not get vaccinated?
For Dr. Hugo Maldonado, head of obstetrics and gynecology services at La Serena Hospital, the main factor may be culture. “We’ve just come out of a critical period, which was a serious and severe pandemic where many people lost loved ones and which somehow left a very strong imprint on the entire population and because of all the protocols and restrictions, it created a A sense of exhaustion. Already in place, following. So as soon as health restrictions are lifted, people relax and perhaps think that the contagion is gone and won’t come back; however, the opposite is true because in a way , these illnesses are here to stay. So we have to get used to having certain safeguards and self-care measures in place.”
Andrea Cavero, a midwife and MPH, said, “In general, myths about pregnant women have to do with a level of ignorance and fear that vaccines create in them because they worry about what the vaccine will do Some unnecessary effects.” effect. “On your baby. People believe that vaccines will harm their unborn son or daughter, but they rarely realize that the evidence for their use exists and has been shown to have a greater protective factor and in any case There is no risk of pregnancy or birth.
Scientific evidence shows that the effectiveness of preventing influenza in pregnant women and newborns under six months of age is primarily seen when the mother is vaccinated.
In this regard, epidemiologist Aldoaneth Leiva pointed out, “Whether winter is over or not, as a health team, we must strengthen our call for influenza vaccination to prevent people, especially high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, in the coming period if Severe symptoms will occur when respiratory viruses come back in the medium to long term.”
Furthermore, the obstetrician-gynecologist explained, “To some extent, the effects on the fetal level are indirect, and perhaps the virus itself does not make the pregnant embryo or fetus so severely ill; however, the disease is All the consequences for the mother can lead to the risk of premature birth, growth restriction and even death of the baby due to severe pathologies in the mother. It should be noted that these complex situations described are completely avoidable with the vaccine, so the appeal is aimed precisely at preventing people Seriously ill,” Maldonado stressed.
Vaccines are safe during pregnancy
The head of the maternity service at La Serena Hospital emphasizes that “the vaccine stimulates the mother’s immune system, producing the necessary defenses so that the virus (in this case, influenza) does not cause any changes or suppression of the system. The immune system, which only The very fact of pregnancy already affects it. In addition, secondly, the transfer of antibodies to the fetus occurs in a subtle way, which prevents the transmission of viral particles to the fetus.”
The infectious disease expert noted, “The vaccine works like other vaccines in generating immunity in pregnant women who receive it, and because it is a flu vaccine, it is suitable for strains that are prevalent during that period. Vaccines, especially influenza The vaccine, during pregnancy, is completely safe for both pregnant women and babies, as this vaccine is immunogenic only in the recipient and does not create any type of contraindication for future neonates,” Dr. Leiva emphasize.
Finally, the Midwifery Manager of the Serenense facility emphasized that “the benefits of getting the flu vaccine are greater and there are never associated risks for newborns or pregnant women. As a hospital, we have strategies in place to reduce barriers to accessing the vaccine, so In the field of inpatient and outpatient care, we provide counseling on the importance of vaccination, we provide science-based information so that unvaccinated pregnant women who have been vaccinated should do so calmly, and we recommend that they be vaccinated in the same hospital, so that They wouldn’t have to go elsewhere; “With all these strategies, we can avoid losing the opportunity to protect them. “