Pregnant women unaware of Swine Flu danger

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 7-9-2010

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



A new study by WA researchers into the vaccination of pregnant women against pandemic, H1N1 influenza (Swine Flu), has revealed a number of patients were not aware of their specific vulnerability to the disease and opted out of preventative treatment, despite widespread public education campaigns throughout Australia.

The collaborative study between The University of Notre Dame Australia, Edith Cowan University and Joondalup Health Campus revealed a number of factors, including safety concerns and misinformation from GPs, contributed to pregnant women refusing to receive vaccination.

The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Executive Dean of Medicine and senior study author, Professor Julie Quinlivan, said pregnant women in particular, were identified early in the pandemic as vulnerable and candidates for heightened awareness of the disease.

“Once the vaccine was available and judged by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as safe and effective, pregnant women were at the top the list of recommended recipients in the first rollout of the vaccination program in September 2009,” she said.

“If pregnant women acquire Swine Flu, the consequences can be considerable, including miscarriage, threatened preterm labour and preterm birth, foetal death in utero, and admission to hospital or intensive care.”

During the study, Professor Quinlivan and Joondalup Health Campus’s Dr Scott White and Associate
Professor Rodney Petersen, conducted informal questioning of patients at public antenatal clinics, revealing the low uptake of H1N1-specific vaccination among pregnant patients.

Professor Quinlivan said participants identified five reasons why vaccination had not occurred, most commonly citing safety reasons as their primary concern, with 63 per cent reporting their General Practitioner (GP) had not raised or discussed the matter with them despite multiple visits during pregnancy.

“19.6 per cent of the women said their GPs had actively advised against vaccination, which is also quite troubling,” she said.

“We need more funding for maternity hospitals to administer flu vaccinations, and to include flu vaccinations in shared care documentation, which is issued by the Health Department of Western Australia, to all GPs.”

“We have just been very lucky that the Swine Flu has not hit as hard as last year, as the low vaccination uptake means the community is not immune.”

Professor Quinlivan said her team would conduct randomised trials in 2011 to evaluate whether the introduction of clinic based vaccination programs would increase the uptake of influenza vaccination in pregnant women.

Vaccination against pandemic influenza for pregnant women has been advocated by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the basis that the theoretical risks associated with the vaccine are outweighed by the potential benefits to the pregnant woman and her foetus.

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