Q A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - HEALTH MATTERS -

MI am preg­nant and about to have my vac­ci­na­tion for per­tus­sis. My GP rec­om­mended that I have the flu vac­cine also while I am there. I am not afraid of vac­cines but be­fore I do, I have a cou­ple of ques­tions. Firstly, is it true that the flu vac­cine is not very ac­cu­rate as there are so many dif­fer­ent strains of flu? Se­condly, if there are dif­fer­ent vac­cines, can I be as­sured that all of them are safe? Thirdly, can you ex­plain briefly what per­tus­sis is, and how com­mon is the

virus — if I don’t get it, will my baby be at a real risk? any vac­cines are safe to give in preg­nancy and some are actually rec­om­mended. You specif­i­cally asked about the flu and per­tus­sis (whoop­ing cough) vac­cines. These are both rec­om­mend in preg­nancy. Flu can be espe­cially se­ri­ous in preg­nancy. Com­pli­ca­tions for mom and baby in­clude pre-term labour, small for ges­ta­tional age, hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and, rarely, death. Flu vac­ci­na­tion has been given to preg­nant women around the world for many years and is considered safe at any stage of preg­nancy.

Flu is es­ti­mated to kill from 250,000 to 500,000 peo­ple world­wide ev­ery year. Get­ting vac­ci­nated is the best way to pre­vent in­fec­tion. The vac­cine is very safe, has been used for over 60 years and given to mil­lions of peo­ple world­wide. Con­trary to pop­u­lar myth, you can­not get the flu from the flu vac­cine.

Dif­fer­ent strains of in­fluenza cir­cu­late in dif­fer­ent years. More than 100 na­tional in­fluenza cen­tres in over 100 coun­tries con­duct year-round sur­veil­lance of cir­cu­lat­ing viruses. This in­volves re­ceiv­ing and test­ing thousands of in­fluenza virus sam­ples from pa­tients.

Twice a year, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) or­gan­ises a con­sul­ta­tion with those who col­late the data. They re­view the re­sults of sur­veil­lance, lab­o­ra­tory, and clin­i­cal stud­ies, and the avail­abil­ity of vac­cine viruses and make rec­om­men­da­tions on the com­po­si­tion of the in­fluenza vac­cine. This amal­ga­ma­tion of data makes it un­likely that a cir­cu­lat­ing strain will be missed.

Also, the an­nual vac­cine con­tains be­tween two and three strains of flu thus cov­er­ing sev­eral pos­si­ble virus out­breaks. Flu vac­ci­na­tion has been shown to re­duce flu com­pli­ca­tions by 70pc to 90pc in healthy peo­ple. In the el­derly, it re­duced the risk of se­ri­ous ill­ness by 60pc, and death by 80pc. Ba­bies born to moms who were

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