The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) says it encourages all pregnant women to get a yearly flu shot to protect themselves and their babies.
The ADH says the flu shot is safe for pregnant women and their babies and helps reduce the risk of premature labor, delivery, and serious illness in both mother and baby. Flu shots for pregnant women are now available at Local Health Units, pharmacies and clinics statewide. Flu vaccines for the general public will be available at ADH mass flu clinics beginning the week of October 22.
"All pregnant women, regardless of how far along in the pregnancy, should get yearly flu shots to protect themselves and their babies from serious illness and death," says Gary Wheeler, MD, ADH Infectious Disease Branch Chief. "One recent study showed a 70 percent decrease in preterm deliveries during the flu season for moms who got their yearly flu shot," Wheeler said. Because babies born prematurely are at much higher risk of death, it appears that the flu vaccine can help prevent many of these deaths."
After receiving a flu shot, the mother's immunity to flu is safely passed to her unborn baby. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy is essential since babies cannot get the flu vaccine until they are six months old. Pregnant women should only get the flu shot. The nasal spray flu vaccine has not been approved for use in pregnant women.
"Millions of pregnant women have safely received the flu shot over the last 45 years," Wheeler said. "In fact, many lives have been saved."
The flu virus spreads through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it then touching the nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Flu symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, and occasionally stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Having a fever caused by a flu infection or other infections early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects in an unborn child. Pregnant women who have flu-like symptoms should call their doctor right away.
If you have insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or ARKids First, bring your cards to the clinic so that ADH can file with your insurance company. If you do not have insurance or your insurance company does not pay, the shot will be no charge to you.