Home | Non-food | Miscellaneous | Pregnant women top of the list for H1N1 vaccine

Pregnant women top of the list for H1N1 vaccine

By Sheilah Downey (sheilahd@foodconsumer.org)

With pregnant women considered in the high-risk category for swine flu complications, the government yesterday recommended they be put at the front of the line for the vaccine expected out in October.

Other priority candidates include health care workers, children six months and older, young adults aged 19 to 24 and non-elderly adults considered high-risk. The recommendations were handed down by a 15-member panel of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and are usually adopted by federal health officials.

Parents and care-givers of infants should also be given the vaccine under the priority category because infants under six months old cannot be given the vaccine, explained health officials.

Six deaths in pregnant women were reported to the Centers for Disease Control since the onset of the virus in April, according to an online study released yeasterday in the Lancet. All of the women had developed pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, said the study, and required mechanical venilation.

There have been a total of 34 confirmed cases of swine flu in pregnant women and of those, 11 women were admitted to the hospital with acute respiratory illness, stated the Lancet study.

Because of the high risk of possible complications, pregnant women should be first on the vaccine list, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC, in the meeting of health officials yesterday in Atlanta.

"We have seen pregnant women disproportionately affected by this virus," said Schuchat. "They have apparently a four-fold increase of being hospitalized here (as compared to) the general population that gets this virus so we do think that when influenza, including this H1N1 virus strikes pregnant women, worse things happen."

Schuchat stressed that "it's vital" for pregnant women who have respiratory illness and fever to get early treatment. She also advised pregnant women to get the new H1N1 vaccine when available and also the seasonal vaccine to protect against both flu strains.