The 2013 Korean movie “Flu” takes the fear of epidemic infection over the top, but luckily, two brave docs risk everything to develop a vaccine. We love that theme! It sure makes you glad that here you can get a flu shot every year. Even the vaccines that don’t perfectly nail the strains that appear (like what happened last year) tamp down the toll that flu takes.
So far this year, over 140 million doses have been distributed, and that’s terrific! But only half of the more than 4 million women who give birth in North America annually get inoculated against influenza. Some mistakenly fear that the vaccine harms a fetus or causes newborns problems.
For years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has studied the vaccine and found that it poses no risk to pregnant women or their offspring. What they have found is that getting the flu while pregnant increases the risks of pregnancy complications, including premature labor and delivery. But if you do get the shot while you’re pregnant, your newborn will be protected against the flu for the first six months of life. Then, at six months, it’s time for baby to get a vaccination. And now, the most extensive research to date, which looked at 275,000 births, confirms that the vaccine doesn’t increase adverse fetal outcomes.
So if you’re pregnant, make sure you get your flu shot. It’s never too late in the season. And if you’re worried about trace thimerosal (a form of mercury) in the shot, there’s a thimerosal-free version available.
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.