Influenza vaccination in pregnancy

Influenza in Australia

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu” can be a serious, life-threatening infection which is most common in the winter months. Despite we Aussies calling everything the flu, influenza is NOT the same as a cold and is so much worse than a headache, hangover or the tummy upset from dodgy leftovers. Every year, among the thousands of Australians who die from influenza, we have mums-to-be who end up hospitalised, in intensive care and dying.

Quick facts:

  • The peak influenza season in Australia is August-September, but there are cases of influenza all year round

  • Some years are worse than others. 2017 was a very bad flu year for Australia, 2018 was a mild year

  • The flu changes (mutates) regularly, which makes it a difficult target to hit from an immunisation point of view and this is why we change the vaccine most years

  • Between 1 500 and 3 500 Australians die every year from the flu. This compares with the average number of deaths from the road toll since 2013, which is around 1 200

Influenza vaccination in pregnancy:

  • Is recommended for every woman in every pregnancy regardless of the time of year, although vaccines can be hard to come by between October and March

  • Is safe

  • Is effective

  • Protects mum

  • By protecting mum, protects her unborn baby (if we can keep mum healthy, out of hospital and especially out of intensive care, baby will do much better)

  • Gives baby antibodies which are transmitted through the placenta, giving them a fighting start should they meet influenza after they are born

  • Babies under the age of 6 months don’t respond well to the influenza vaccine and immunising mum provides protection in this vulnerable group, reducing the incidence of influenza in their babies by about 50%

  • Gives baby antibodies through breastmilk which increases their protection further

Influenza vaccine facts:

  • Is not a live vaccine

  • Can not give you the flu

  • Can sting and you may get a sore arm, headache and muscle aches and pains for a couple of days

  • Is not always effective — if the flu changes even a little bit, the antibodies you have from the vaccine may not protect you from the new flu

  • Is available during pregnancy for free from your GP, although there may be a fee to see your GP. Supplies of the vaccine may become limited between October and March