GPs the key to flu vaccinations for pregnant women

Matt Woodley

3/05/2019 3:19:45 PM

A study has identified a strong recommendation from healthcare providers, particularly GPs, as the most important factor in increasing influenza vaccine uptake among pregnant women.

Vaccination rates have doubled since 2011
Only around half of the women surveyed vaccinated themselves against influenza during pregnancy.

According to the research, which evaluated NSW’s 2016 influenza vaccination in pregnancy campaign, 54% of pregnant women in the state chose to receive a flu shot. While this represents around double the uptake in 2011, researchers still described the situation as ‘suboptimal’.
Traditional media was described as a main source of information about influenza vaccination in pregnancy for Australian women, but poor engagement plagued the campaign’s social media content.
Midwives were the most common source of information; however, only 51% of surveyed women who had discussed influenza vaccination with a midwife had been vaccinated. In comparison, almost two-thirds of those who had discussed it with a GP received the vaccine.
While GPs were the most likely influence, concerns over the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety have prevented higher uptake – a problem potentially exacerbated by GP attitudes.
The study cited research from 2012 that found one-third of Sydney GPs did not consider influenza during pregnancy to be a serious risk for the mother or the baby, while more than half had significant concerns about the safety of influenza vaccination in pregnancy.
Dr Frank Beard, former GP and study co-author, told newsGP he believes the main obstacles were concerns over vaccine effectiveness and GPs not being fully aware of the severity of influenza.
‘We’re not completely sure what the current situation is – that may have improved – but certainly anecdotally … there are concerns generally amongst GPs about safety and effectiveness of the influenza vaccine,’ he said.
‘[However], there’s a lot of evidence that the vaccine is very safe during pregnancy, so our position would be that GPs recommend vaccination to women in pregnancy in accordance with national best practice guidelines, and that they provide evidence-based information to patients to address any misconceptions and uncertainty.’
Dr Beard said while not always 100% effective, the benefits of the influenza vaccination are of particular importance to pregnant women and their unborn children.
‘Pregnant women [who have not been vaccinated] have a higher risk of contracting severe influenza, respiratory disease, intensive care admission, pregnancy complications, early pre-term births and miscarriages,’ he said.
‘Newborn babies are also at very high risk of contracting influenza. The hospitalisation rate at six months of age is about five times what it is in the elderly.
‘By far and away the most effective predictor of women getting vaccinated was a strong recommendation from their GP.
‘If GPs can give evidence-based information and a strong recommendation, that helps to increase uptake and maximise the benefits for the individual women, their babies and also in terms of population benefits of the program.’
The researchers concluded further efforts are required to understand and address provider and patient attitudes and concerns about influenza vaccination in pregnancy, especially regarding effectiveness and safety.

flu pregnancy vaccination

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