Delivering a Healthy WA
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WA lifts uptake in antenatal influenza vaccination

Although the World Health Organization singles out pregnant women as the most important risk group for seasonal influenza vaccination and free influenza vaccine has been available to pregnant Australians since 2009, uptake has been poor.

In response to the low influenza vaccine uptake by pregnant women in WA in 2012, the WA Health Department focused on promoting the vaccine to pregnant women and their antenatal care providers in 2013. The department worked with one public maternity hospital (hospital A) to observe the impact on uptake of routinely offering the influenza vaccine at the time of antenatal care. It also worked with a group of private maternity hospitals (health service B) to examine the impact on uptake of mandatory documentation of antenatal influenza vaccination status. The department also studied the safety of antenatal influenza vaccine by surveying pregnant women who received an influenza vaccination in the 2013 season.

In December 2013, 831 randomly selected women – who were pregnant during the 2013 influenza vaccination season – were interviewed by telephone. Self-reported vaccination status was confirmed by medical record review. A total of 3,173 pregnant women (92.1%) who had agreed to post-vaccination follow-up were contacted by SMS or telephone. These women were asked whether they experienced any adverse events in the week following their vaccination.

In 2013, influenza vaccination uptake in WA pregnant women was 40.9%, a 60% increase on 2012 figures (25.6%). Pregnant women whose antenatal care providers advised them to have the influenza vaccine were 10.6 times more likely to be vaccinated. Women who received most of their antenatal care from a private obstetrician and had a post-graduate university education were also more likely to have been vaccinated.

A total of 11.7% of women self-reported a reaction to the influenza vaccine in 2013. The most commonly reported reaction was swelling or pain at the injection site (3.5%); 3.0% reported a headache, 1.9% reported fatigue, 2.0% reported fever, and 2.6% reported a cough or congestion. All other symptoms (e.g. rash, rigors, myalgia) were reported by fewer than 1% of women. No serious vaccine-related events were reported.

Antenatal influenza vaccine uptake is increasing and general practitioners play an important role in protecting pregnant women. Antenatal care providers in WA should inform pregnant mothers of the vaccine's excellent safety profile when routinely offering vaccination during the influenza vaccination season.

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