Medical Experts Underscore Importance of Educating Expectant Parents about Benefit of Vaccines

New report from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reinforces pregnancy as optimal time to create lifetime vaccine advocates.

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Improving Vaccination Rates in Pregnant Women

Call to Action

Vaccination is a two-for-one healthcare intervention for pregnant women because it not only protects expectant mothers and improves the chances of a healthy delivery, but it also helps to protect babies during their first few months of life.

Bethesda, Maryland (PRWEB) May 06, 2014

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), with support from several of the nation’s leading health organizations, is calling on pregnant women, their partners, families, and healthcare providers, to open up the lines of communication about vaccines needed before, during, and after pregnancy. As part of a new Family Vaccines Initiative, the program empowers expectant parents so they can make informed decisions and become lifetime immunization advocates for their entire families.

The report, “Improving Vaccination Rates in Pregnant Women: Timely Intervention – Lasting Benefits,” highlights the conclusions of a group of experts convened by NFID to focus on the importance of vaccinating pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant. The meeting was hosted by NFID in partnership with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Vaccination is a two-for-one healthcare intervention for pregnant women because it not only protects expectant mothers and improves the chances of a healthy delivery, but it also helps to protect babies during their first few months of life when they are too young to respond to vaccinations,” said Carol J. Baker, MD, chair of NFID’s Family Vaccines Initiative, and Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology & Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine.

Yet, an alarming 50 percent of pregnant women remain unprotected from influenza (flu), an infectious disease that puts them at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Flu vaccine is not the only vaccine recommended for pregnant women. CDC, ACOG, and the American College of Nurse-Midwives currently recommend that women get a dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine between weeks 27 and 36 of each pregnancy in order to protect themselves and their newborns from pertussis (whooping cough).

“Women who are planning to become pregnant want to be well-informed about everything that will ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby,” said Dr. Baker. “This is the perfect time for them to start a dialogue with their healthcare providers about the vaccines they need before, during, and after pregnancy.”

Healthcare providers also need to be prepared to counsel expectant mothers and parents, address any concerns, and reinforce the well-documented safety and efficacy of vaccination, stressed Richard Beigi, MD, associate professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Services, Magee-Womens Hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, representing ACOG. “Direct, clear communication from healthcare providers has a major influence on a patient’s decision to vaccinate,” said Dr. Beigi. “They can reinforce to their patients, for example, that influenza vaccination has been given to millions of pregnant women over nearly half a century, and has not been shown to cause harm to them or their babies.”

Dr. Beigi sees each healthcare visit as a chance for providers, particularly those who play a key role on the pregnancy team, such as physician assistants, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, to discuss good health habits, including vaccination, with pregnant women. According to the NFID report, research has shown that delivering vaccine information at the time of pregnancy and the post-partum period can also help ease the transition from obstetrical to pediatric care and the acceptance of essential vaccines that follow. Instilling these positive messages can also help establish new mothers/parents as long-term vaccine advocates for the entire family from infancy, to childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood.

New Educational Resource Available
To help consumers learn more about the vaccines they need and encourage increased dialogue with their healthcare team, NFID has created the Family Vaccines Resource Center (http://www.family-vaccines.org). The new website centralizes free educational resources from a variety of sources for the benefit of expecting or new mothers/parents and healthcare professionals.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases across the lifespan.

This initiative was made possible by unrestricted educational grants from Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis Vaccines, and GlaxoSmithKline. NFID policies restrict funders from controlling program content.