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CDC: Low Vaccination Rates During Pregnancy Leave Moms, Babies Unprotected

Pregnant woman receives flu vaccine.

The CDC says only 35% of pregnant women in 2018 received vaccines against flu and whooping cough —putting them and their infants at risk of severe illness. 

Dr. Joseph Chang, Associate Chief Medical Officer at Parkland Hospital System, thinks the reason may be fear.


The fear factor: "The flu vaccine is actually a dead virus, and in many cases its components have been sort of separated chemically. So that virus is not active anymore. There is no danger.  I think that someone women are afraid that the vaccine is actually a live version of the virus and it is actually not at all."

Dangers in skipping the flu vaccine: "Immune systems are not as strong during pregnancy. So things like the flu will affect a pregnant person a whole lot worse than it would anyone else walking down the street. Rates of death, rates of intensive care unit admission, pneumonia, all of these things are much higher in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women. And of course, with the baby on board, as we like to say, that makes things even a little more dicey."

About whooping cough: "Whooping cough is dangerous even in non-pregnant individuals and people with perfectly intact immune systems. The mortality rate for pertussis is not insignificant, and in pregnant people, you can multiply that by many, many fold.”

On why the whooping cough (tdap) vaccine is recommended in the third trimester: “Anytime, I think, during pregnancy, women think ‘oh, I can only do this during one part of the pregnancy,’ the biggest question is why. It's mainly an effectiveness situation and sort of at a time when the vaccine itself can be most effective."

Pregnang moms aren't the only family members who should get vaccinated: Especially for something really contagious like the flu, family members of pregnant people also need to get vaccinated because it's by protecting those around you that you don't bring that infection into your household.”


CDC: Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu)

CDC: Pregnant Women & Whooping Cough

CDC: Low Rates of Vaccination During Pregnancy Leave Moms, Babies Unprotected

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.