Immunisation is free for pregnant women

Influenza immunisation is strongly recommended for women who will be (or intend to be) pregnant during autumn and winter (usually early March to 31 December each year).

You are at risk of Influenza while pregnant

Influenza is not a cold. It can be a dangerous illness that poses a serious risk to your life and that of your unborn baby. There are a number of influenza related complications that can affect baby's development in the womb and can even lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

A range of physical changes during pregnancy (such as changes in immunity) increase a pregnant woman's risk of serious influenza complications. New Zealand research shows that pregnant women are nearly 5 times more likely to be hospitalised with influenza than women who are not pregnant.

Influenza is dangerous

There are a number of factors that make influenza dangerous to an unborn baby. The influenza virus does not actually cross the placenta to infect your baby, the danger comes from your own body as it fights the illness.

Danger to Mum

  • Being pregnant and getting influenza means you are at increased risk of pneumonia
  • You are nearly 5 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with influenza compared to a non-pregnant woman

Danger to Baby

Influenza during pregnancy increases the risks of:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage/stillbirth
  • Birth defects

Influenza immunisation will not harm your unborn baby

It may be reassuring to know that your influenza vaccine does not cross the placenta into your baby.  The vaccine simply stimulates your own immune system to make antibodies that can fight off the virus.

The good news is that your antibodies are also passed on to your baby so they are born with some protection against influenza for the first few months of life.  Newborns and young infants have higher rates of influenza and hospitalisation than other children, so the protection they receive from you in the womb could make all the difference.

Avoid flu during pregnancy brochure

Why you should get immunised against the flu - Questions and Answers

Influenza survivor Kim Neho – Influenza and Pregnant Women

Kim Neho watches her seven-month-old twins rolling around the floor trying to sit upright in their Kaitaia home and, as she does every day, counts her lucky stars she is still around to witness these milestone moments.

Rewind seven months and she was lying in a coma at death’s door, her body ravaged by influenza and a range of other complications, surrounded by her husband, three kids and, nuzzling into their mother, her newborn twins, who she was yet to meet (Courtesy of the Northland District Health Board - Media Release)

Proven safety record for pregnant women

The influenza vaccine has been used for many years for pregnant women with no safety concerns and can be given during any trimester of pregnancy. There is no increased risk of reactions to the vaccine for pregnant women or their unborn babies.

Questions and answers for pregnant women

Is INFLUVAC® TETRA the funded influenza vaccine for pregnant women?
Yes. One dose of the inactivated quadrivalent influenza
vaccine is recommended each influenza season/year that a
woman is pregnant. A woman who is pregnant across two
influenza seasons would receive two influenza vaccinations
during her pregnancy.

Is there a minimum interval between receiving an influenza vaccination at the end of 2017 and receiving one in 2018?
No. The 2018 influenza vaccination can be given as soon as the vaccine is available. No minimum time is required between an influenza vaccination in 2017 and one in 2018.

Why is an influenza vaccination recommended every year?
Yearly vaccination is recommended for two reasons: first, because protection from the previous vaccination lessens over time; and second, because the circulating influenza viruses can change and the strains in the vaccine usually change each year in response to the changing virus pattern. 

Women who are pregnant across two influenza seasons are recommended to have an influenza vaccination in both of the seasons. In addition to the reasons explained above, a pregnant woman’s risk from influenza also increases with increasing gestation.

When is the best time to be vaccinated?
Influenza vaccination can be given at any time during pregnancy. It is preferable to vaccinate as soon as the vaccine is available (usually from March), well before the start of winter. The funded vaccine is available through to 31 December.

Can influenza and whooping cough booster vaccinations be given at the same visit?
If the woman is between 28–38 weeks of pregnancy (in their third trimester) the influenza vaccine and whooping cough booster vaccine (Tdap) can be administered at the same visit. Both vaccines are funded for pregnant women.

Can women with a history of miscarriage receive an influenza vaccination?
Yes. Influenza vaccination does not increase the risk of miscarriage. However, catching influenza can increase the risk.

Can a post-partum woman receive an influenza vaccination? Will it protect her baby if she is breastfeeding?
It is safe for a breastfeeding woman to have the influenza vaccination. Breastfeeding may offer some initial influenza protection to her baby. However, babies will have more protection if their mother is vaccinated during pregnancy.

Is the influenza vaccine a live vaccine?
No. The influenza vaccine used in New Zealand does not contain any live viruses; the influenza viruses are completely inactivated and cannot cause influenza.

Are there any preservatives in the influenza vaccine, e.g. thiomersal?
No. The vaccine used in New Zealand is preservative free. 

Should pregnant women who work with children receive an influenza vaccination?
Yes. Influenza infection rates are generally highest in children, and they are a major source of the spread of influenza. The influenza virus may be found in respiratory secretions (breathing, coughing and sneezing) for two weeks or longer in children. The risk of exposure to the influenza virus is higher and, for pregnant women, so is their risk of influenza disease and serious complications.

It is also important for all people working with children, and especially young babies, to be vaccinated against influenza to reduce the risk of passing influenza onto them.

Vaccination and breastfeeding

The influenza vaccine can be given to a breastfeeding woman. Protecting the mother can help prevent her becoming infected and transmitting influenza to her baby. Breastfeeding may offer some protection against influenza.

Maternal influenza immunisation protects two high-risk groups with one vaccine dose – pregnant mothers and their babies.