flu vaccine during pregnancy increases risk of miscarriage

The flu vaccine is supposed to offer protection durning pregnancy. But what if it really offers risks instead? . . .



Doctors recommend that pregnant women get inactivated flu vaccines even though there is little research on the safety of that recommendation during the first trimester. This study set out to see if the recommendation is responsible by studying the effect of getting a flu vaccine that included protection against swine flu (pH1N1) on spontaneous abortions. The results were unexpected and disturbing.

The study compared 485 women who had had spontaneous abortions with those who had not. It found that women who had spontaneous abortions were twice as likely to have had the flu shot 1-28 days before the abortion. For women who were getting the flu shot for the second year in a row, the risk of miscarriage went up by a significant 770%. For women not vaccinated the year before, the increase in risk was a nonsignificant 30%.

According to media reports, some experts have criticized the study for properly controlling for greater risk factors in the miscarriage group. But the authors say they did adjust for differences in the two groups. Others have expressed scepticism that an inactivated flu virus could trigger a severe enough reaction to cause an abortion. But, in science, the data trumps the theory, theory doesn’t defeat data. This data may not be the final answer, but it’s the most authoritative answer we have so far. So, pending further studies, the evidence suggests that getting the flu shot two seasons in a row significantly increases the risk of miscarriage.

There are also two troubling details the media chose not to focus on. The first is that this is not the first study to identify problems with repeated vaccines. Earlier research has shown that getting the flu shot two years in a row drops its effectiveness from 53% effective to -32% (that's right: you're 32% more likely to get the flu with the second vaccine). In the third consecutive year getting the flu shot, the effectiveness goes down to -54%.

The second is that there is no reason for the recommendation that pregnant women get the flu vaccine, so there is no reason to chance the risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women who get the flu shot have the same risk of getting the flu as women who don’t: there is no benefit to getting the shot. There is also no benefit for the baby. Babies born to vaccinated women have the same rate of flu and pneumonia as babies born to unvaccinated mothers.

So, the science suggests that not only pregnant women shouldn’t get the flu shot two years in a row: no one should. And, more importantly given the risk of miscarriage, there is no reason for pregnant women to get the flu shot.


Vaccine 2017;35(40):5314-22


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