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Pregnant Women and Babies Most at Risk

The Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (WBOP PHO) is encouraging pregnant woman to get free influenza and whooping cough vaccinations this winter.

The Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (WBOP PHO) is encouraging pregnant woman to get free influenza and whooping cough vaccinations this winter.

Diane Newland, Immunisation Co-ordinator for the WBOP PHO said, “these are highly contagious illnesses which can lead to life threatening complications.  Among those most at risk are pregnant women and their babies. The good news is they are largely preventable by getting vaccinated.”

According to the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland, pregnant women who are not vaccinated against influenza are 18 times more likely to be hospitalised due to influenza. The risk of life-threatening complications and ongoing illness (both during pregnancy and after the birth) for both mother and child is even higher when there are pre-existing medical conditions.

“Influenza vaccines have been given to pregnant women since the 1960s,” said Ms Newland. “The World Health Organisation recommends influenza vaccination for pregnant women regardless of any trimester and that they be given the highest priority. It can also be given to women who are breastfeeding.  Expectant mothers are recommended to be vaccinated for whooping cough when they are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant,” she said.

There are a number of common misconceptions about influenza vaccination. Some may think that the vaccination will give them influenza or that it is only useful for people with medical conditions, says Ms Newland.

“There is no live virus within the vaccine, so it cannot give you the flu,” said Ms Newland.  “Vaccination in pregnant women has been found to be highly effective in preventing influenza and its complications, and also for their babies for a short time after birth.”

Anyone can carry the influenza virus and pass it on to others without having any visible symptoms. Even if a person appears healthy, they might be risking the lives of others around them as the virus can be passed on via contaminated surfaces or even in the air. The reality of this level of contagiousness is that there’s no real way to safe guard yourself and those around you other than to be vaccinated.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre also stated that 50 percent of babies that catch whooping cough before the age of 12 months require hospitalisation. “Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and even death. New Zealand has whooping cough epidemics every 3-5 years with several thousand cases (mostly young children) reported in each epidemic,” Ms Newland said.

“Babies cannot receive whooping cough vaccinations until they are six weeks old and flu vaccinations until they are six months old; therefore they are at risk of serious illness until they are old enough to be vaccinated.  That is why it is really important as many people as possible are vaccinated,” she added.

Influenza immunisation is free for pregnant women until 31 July, 2015 and the whooping cough vaccination is free for pregnant women between 28 and 38 weeks.

Call your GP to make an appointment for these vaccinations.

For more information contact:
James Fuller
Communications Advisor - Bay of Plenty District Health Board
DDI: 07 579 8411
Mobile: 027 839 1791
Fax: 07 577 9195      



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