Ask Your Pharmacist

October 25, 2019
Q:

I was told I should get my flu shot and whooping cough vaccine because I am expecting a child. Are these vaccines safe to get while I am pregnant?

A:

I’m sure it is often overwhelming making decisions when you are pregnant knowing your decision affects not only you but your future child as well. I appreciate your apprehension and typically recommend erring on the side of caution especially when the effect is unknown. Fortunately, when it comes to vaccinating against influenza and pertussis (whooping cough), we do have data on the safety and benefits of these vaccines. This has led Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) to recommend these vaccines to all pregnant women (without contraindications). NACI recommends that every one 6 months of age and over get the flu vaccine, as long as they don’t have any contraindications. They emphasize how important it is for pregnant women to get a flu shot as they are at increased risk of complications if they get influenza because the infection can affect the neonatal child. New Brunswick provides publicly funded vaccines for influenza and whooping cough to those who are higher risk.

There are more benefits to vaccination than just preventing an expecting mother from catching the flu or whooping cough. Babies can’t receive a flu vaccine until they are over six months old. During this time, having those around the child immunized greatly reduces the chances that the adults will contract the illness and pass on illness to the baby. NACI recommends all pregnant mothers receive the vaccine, every pregnancy, between weeks 27 and 32 of the pregnancy. Whooping cough is part of routine vaccines that children receive, but adults should receive it every 10 years (with tetanus). It is important to make sure those who will be around the infant have had this vaccine to prevent the newborn from contracting this, especially before he or she is old enough to be vaccinated.

These vaccines have been shown to be safe for the mother and the baby and prevent illness that could compromise the child’s health, so if you get the vaccines, you can sleep easy knowing you’ve made a wise decision. Depending on your vaccine history and other risk factors, your physician may recommend other vaccines as well. Anyone who plans to be in contact with a pregnant mother or a newborn child should discuss their vaccine status with their pharmacist to protect themselves and others by not spreading these illnesses.

Jared Mactavish (BSc., Pharm) is a pharmacist at Guardian Pharmacy in Hampton and St. Stephen. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.