Back when I was pregnant with my younger son, I asked for a flu shot. I’ll never forget that day. I was about four months pregnant and going in for a check-up with my OB. Looking haggard and desperate, I had just left the hospital where Ronan had recently been admitted. Once in the exam room, I told the nurse that I only had a few minutes for the appointment because I needed to get back to the hospital.
I don’t remember the entire conversations, but I do know that I shared that, “Ronan’s sick…the croup…terrible cough…several breathing treatments…also has the flu…yes, had the flu shot, too…so strange! I don’t want to get sick or jeopardize my baby (in utero)…do you have flu shots here for me?” Sympathizing with me, she said she was sorry but that I was out of luck. They didn’t have any. Citing a state-wide shortage, they’d run out only days before. The nurse suggested I call my primary physician but warned me that local doctors had exhausted their supplies also. Those who had any left were offering the shot only to children or the elderly. They were top priority. I was flabbergasted.
What about me?!
I walked out of that office so worried. The flu! It’s awful! It’s only going to get worse! Get the shot – it’s the only thing that’ll save you! The news was selling more fear than facts that year and would continue to do so until the end of the annual flu shot season. Tired, pregnant, and feeling lost, those next few weeks were not an easy time for me. But knowing our family’s medical history now, I can only imagine how damaging that flu shot could’ve been for Ronan’s younger brother.
Back then while pregnant with my second son, I thought I was doing me and my baby a favor by confidently asked for flu shot. Since I couldn’t and didn’t ever get one, I know that I escaped the risk that comes with it. Some women today don’t escape that. These days, they don’t have to ask for a shot like I thought to. They’re being told to get it. Some do and possibly without realizing that what they’re being told doesn’t match up with what’s in the vaccine inserts:
Safety and effectiveness of FLUARIX have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers.
There are insufficient data on FLUARIX QUADRIVALENT in pregnant women to inform vaccine associated risks.
It is not known whether AFLURIA is excreted in human milk. Data are not available to assess the effects of AFLURIA on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion.
Safety and effectiveness of Fluzone Quadrivalent Southern Hemisphere have not been established in pregnant women or children less than 6 months of age.
Safety and effectiveness of FluMist Quadrivalent have not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers, geriatric adults, or children less than 2 years of age.
If that’s all true, how’d this story make the rounds last week? It’s saying something different – that the flu shot protects women and their babies. It doesn’t do that just during the pregnancy but after pregnancy, too.
After reading that news story that sounded more like a vaccine advertisement this week, I just sat and shook my head. How can they say that the flu shot is safe and effective for pregnant (and nursing mothers) when the literature from the government agency that approves vaccines says otherwise? How confusing! More confusing is that other vaccine package inserts, like the Tdap, also include that recurring insufficient data statement. Pushed heavily on pregnant women – and on family members wishing to hold the baby, the data about pregnancy and vaccines doesn’t seem to add up. So, just like last week when the flu stats didn’t add up, I had to keep reading.
I went back and looked at more news stories about vaccines and pregnancy and also reread some of the flu shot package inserts. Another one made clear that Available data on Flublok Quadrivalent and Flublok (trivalent formulation) administered to pregnant women are insufficient to inform vaccine-associated risks in pregnant women, but it was this section from that approved and recommended 2018-19 flu shot that caught my eye:
Pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to Flublok Quadrivalent during pregnancy are being monitored.
Wait a minute. What about that bold statement the CDC made in that news story that: Flu shots have been given to millions of pregnant women over many years with a good safety record. If so many women are fine, and if so many years of data have supposedly been established, what are they monitoring and why? And when will the rest of us find out about it? When enough women have some sort of reaction – either good or bad? If bad, are they talking about the miscarriages that were reported post flu vaccine a few years ago?
From the CDC’s Flu Vaccine and Safety page: …a recent study showed that women in early pregnancy who received two consecutive annual flu shots during 2010-11 and 2011-12, did have an increased risk of miscarriage in the 28 days after receiving the second vaccine…
My mind was spinning. Which manufactures made those shots? Were those lots recalled? Did officials pull existing supply from distribution? Have the women been consoled and offered any counseling on vaccine safety and choice for the future? Did they know to say no the next time they were offered a shot? Were they able to carry to term in later pregnancies?
Once again, after reading, I had more questions than when I began reading. But I had to keep reading. So I kept the Floblok insert page open and came across this under a section titled Patient Counseling Information: Encourage women who receive Flublok or Flublok Quadrivalent while pregnant to notify Sanofi Pasteur Inc., by calling 1-800-822-2463. Instruct the vaccine recipient that annual vaccination to prevent influenza is recommended.
To me monitoring includes the gathering of data. People gather data while running experiments. If the manufacture of the vaccine and their affiliates are monitoring today’s patients, does that mean pregnant women who receive the flu shot are part of an on-going experiment? After reading that section again, I’d have to say they absolutely could be. I haven’t gone any further with that information, but future mamas, does that not raise the hair on the back of your neck? It does mine. It absolutely does.
The FDA repeats over and over again in those flu shot inserts that All pregnancies have a risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. But so do their vaccines have risks. And that’s not according to me; that’s according to them and the CDC!
It doesn’t seem possible that anyone could push something risky, like a vaccine, on an already potentially high-risk population. But they do. So what can women do?
I didn’t know to do all of that when I was pregnant with Ronan’s little brother. But I have learned so much since then. Something else I have done since then is thanked God many times that my doctor did not have any shots .
day! I really don’t think getting the shot then would have resulted in a positive outcome. Later, and only after my boys’ vaccine injuries occurred, did I start to think differently about vaccines. That’s when I went from being 100% pro-vaccine to somewhat vaccine cautious to advocating for informed choice and for vaccine choice. It took a few years to make those changes. It took a lot or reading, asking, and reading some more. It took one more thing, too. I also started to trust myself more than I ever thought to before.
I know that if something sounds fishy, it’s probably fishy. With what I’ve read, something sounds fishy with this big vaccines during pregnancy push. I don’t like it, and personally, I don’t trust it. My research says no. My gut says no. That maternal instinct. I know that it’s there for a reason. If I’ve learned anything along the way, I have learned to trust it. If I could offer one small piece of advice to other mamas out there who are beginning to question and read about vaccines, it’s to use your instinct. Use it, and never let anyone take it away from you.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.