December 8, 2009
Consumer advocate and Ob/Gyn team up to address questions and concerns
Washington, DC–Citing the special vulnerability of pregnant women to the H1N1 virus and persistent confusion over the risks, benefits, and availability of vaccines, a leading consumer advocate and a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist have teamed up to get expectant moms quality information through a new digital Q&A called “Flu facts for expectant moms.”
“Our message to expectant moms is: Do what is best for you and your baby and get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, a nonprofit advocacy group with strong expertise in medication information. “Perhaps more than any other group, pregnant women are desperate for practical and trustworthy information on how to protect themselves and their babies from what can be a devastating illness in high-risk populations.”
Recent reports show that up to 30 percent of pregnant women who are infected with the H1N1 flu virus require hospitalization, and of the H1N1-related deaths reported in the United States, 6 percent of them – a disproportionately high percentage – were pregnant women.
Annelise Swigert, M.D., a practicing Ob/Gyn and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, answers questions posed by Greenberg in the digital Q&A’s, available at NCL’s Web site, www.nclnet.org. “Pregnant women are already highly concerned about their health, and when you introduce something as potentially frightening as a widespread flu outbreak—coupled with a limited supply of vaccine—it is easy to understand the heightened anxiety,” Swigert said. “In this situation, facts can often be the best prescription, and the fact is both expectant moms and new moms are doing the right thing by getting vaccinated.”
In the Q&A, Greenberg and Swigert tackle the issue of vaccine supply. Vaccine makers have produced the H1N1 vaccine in about half the time typically required for the seasonal flu vaccine and without using adjuvants, additives commonly used in Europe but not yet approved in the US to increase the vaccine supply. “Health officials believe enough H1N1 vaccine will be available by the end of the year to vaccinate all those who wish to receive it,” said Swigert. “For the most part, pregnant women and members of other high-risk groups have been able to get vaccinated, but those who haven’t yet shouldn’t hesitate to use their status to help them get priority.”
On the vexing challenge of getting vaccinated when supplies are limited, Swigert recommended that pregnant women start by contacting their Ob/Gyn. “Many obstetrical clinics have the vaccine available for their patients,” she said. “Your clinic can also help you find other resources for the vaccine if they don’t have it.” Pregnant women should also get the regular flu vaccine.
The Q&A will be distributed nationally to consumer groups, women’s and health organizations, and the news media. It is available directly to consumers on NCL’s Web site at nclnet.org.