So if you didn’t know, I am currently running a Flu Shot FAQ Reel Series on Instagram! Every day for about 3 weeks I will be debunking a flu shot myth or answering a flu shot question using facts + information from credible and reliable sources. I chose reels to do this because they’re short and lots of people watch them (vs. not everyone will take the time to read a lengthy blog post).
*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*
This week I tacked three questions – they will be below, with their associated reel video, as well as some additional links/sources and more in-depth information – for those of you who do like reading blog posts!
Next week I will tackle 5 more questions – no FAQ on weekends! Follow me on Instagram to see them more frequently, and let me know if you like this!
Question: Can I get the flu shot if I have an egg allergy?
Answer: YES – but as always, you should speak with your provider especially if you have a severe/anaphylactic allergy to eggs. There may just be some steps they want you to follow (such as receiving your shot in a medical setting so that *if* a reaction does occur, a team can respond appropriately).
As is noted in the video, this is the current recommendation from multiple authorities such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. These recommendations are based on multiple, recent studies that have been done – they showed that the trace amounts of ovalbumin (egg protein) in the flu vaccine is associated with a very low risk of adverse events.
If you have had a previous anaphylactic reaction to the flu shot, you should consult with your provider as there may be alternatives available to you. You should also always disclose any reactions to vaccines before they are administered to the injector – even fainting (or, especially fainting)!
Question: Should I get the flu shot during pregnancy? Is it safe?
Answer: …to both questions, is yes.
So re: the safety of the vaccine during pregnancy – this is actually well studied which is honestly surprising because many health topics surrounding pregnancy are often understudied! If you are wondering what these studies are all about, I invite you to look at the NACI’s statement on the influenza vaccine for 2020-2021, as well as previous years if you so choose (however the newest statement will include the most up to date studies and information). You can find that here. Many of the studies are behind a pay wall, so you can also check out the CDC’s page on flu vaccine safety in pregnancy.
Many women are concerned about an increased risk for miscarriage however there is no evidence that there is an increased risk of miscarriage when a woman receives the flu shot during pregnancy. I think this myth arose from an older study from the 2010-2012 seasons with a small sample size that found an increased risk during the first trimester. No studies since then have replicated these results and instead have shown no association.
So it’s safe, but why should I get it when I’m pregnant? Because pregnant women are at high risk for influenza related complications, which can include preterm labour, pneumonia (hospitalization), and even death.
Why are pregnant women high risk? Well, our body goes through so many changes when we are pregnant – one of the areas that is impacted by these changes is the immune system, as well as the heart, lungs, and well honestly, pretty much every damn part of your body. All of this means that we can have a harder time fighting off the flu, and dealing with its symptoms.
You may also want to consider getting the flu shot during pregnancy to provide your baby with protection from the flu in their first 6 months of life, when they are not able to receive the flu shot. Flu season runs from October until May in some cases – so there is a benefit even if your baby isn’t born in the winter.
If you have specific questions about the flu shot, I would encourage you to talk to your maternal care provider or primary care provider. The NACI recommends all pregnant women receive the vaccine, no matter the trimester they are in, and this recommendation is shared by the CDC.
Question: Special considerations during pregnancy and Postpartum: Should I avoid thimerosal in vaccines when pregnant? Can I get the shot when breastfeeding?
Re: thimerosal. Studies show that there are only trace amounts of thimerosal in the vaccine (it is used as a preservative), and that it is not considered harmful. However, there is also a thimerosal-free formulation available if you would prefer to avoid it. Talk to your provider.
If you are breastfeeding – yes, you can receive the flu shot. It is also recommended if your baby is under 6 months of age – for that extra protection again (as you pass your antibodies on to baby during breastfeeding), when they cannot receive it themselves.
Stay tuned for more FAQ next week!