Blog | Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get your darn flu shot!

The press conference I attended today at the Infectious Disease Society of America's annual meeting had a clear message and it was pretty much a more polite version of this post's title.

Researchers presented data showing that flu vaccination of pregnant women (seasonal, not pandemic, by the way) makes their babies less likely to be premature, small or admitted to the hospital for flu early in their lives. So, such vaccinations would solve the problem of not having a vaccination for newborns and achieve the cost-effectiveness of protecting two people with one shot. The scientists expressed hope that their findings would increase the currently "dismal" rates of expectant-mother vaccination. "If they're not doing it for themselves, maybe they'll do it for their babies," said Marietta Vasquez, MD.

I wouldn't count on it, based on the results presented about vaccination attitudes among hospital workers. The one-hospital survey found that plenty of health care workers, and even some physicians, believe that flu vaccines aren't safe and could give you the flu. In addition, many of them were not aware that one can transmit the flu without having symptoms. Depressing.

On the bright side, even though vaccine expert Paul Offit, MD, termed his part of the press conference a "mini-rant," he actually had some positive news to offer. "The pendulum is starting to swing the other way," he said. Concerns from parents of immunocompromised kids and the refusal by some docs to see unvaccinated children, among other factors, are putting the anti-vaccine troops on the defense, he thinks.