Should a pregnant women refuse the flu shot?
Pregnant women above all people should get the flu shot. And not just because refusing it might cost them their jobs. They should get it first and foremost because it is the best, if not only way to protect them and their unborn babies from the influenza. If they happen to be a healthcare worker such as nurse, that’s all the more reason to do so, because they should know better, and because it sets a good example. Dreonna Breton, a 29 year-old pregnant nurse t Horizons Healthcare Services in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, felt differently and as a result she was fired from her job.
She cited as her reasons for refusal that the potential risk was not worth it, and that there hasn’t been enough research on the effects of the flu shot on pregnant women. Her arguments don’t hold water though, and are in fact two of the most common flu shot myths. That is, that young and healthy people don’t need the vaccine, and that it isn’t safe for pregnant women, both of which are absolutely untrue. Even if you’re strong as an ox, and have never had the flu –nay, never ever get sick at all-, the flu shot is your best bet for remaining healthy. The vaccine is 100% safe, and has only few and mild temporary side effects.
Everyone older than 6 months should get the flu shot, and pregnant women are one of the groups who should be first in line, along with young children, older people, and people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. According to CNN.com, Breton arrived to her decision after three miscarriages. Sadly, not getting the flu shot is not going to prevent a fourth one; if anything, it might increase the risk. Flu during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. Furthermore, children are at a greater risk of experiencing serious flu symptoms, but as we mentioned above, they can’t get the vaccine until they are at least 6 months old. Fortunately, the vaccine’s antibodies can pass through the placenta and grant the baby protection even before it is born.
All of this is not to say that there aren’t exceptions; all rules have exceptions, but Breton’s case doesn’t seem to qualify as one, and seems more an instance of anxiety during pregnancy. And it is a very sad state of affairs when a healthcare professional goes rogue and by her actions implies that there is something wrong with the flu vaccine. It’s bad enough that there are conspiracy theorists confusing people with their doomsday rhetoric, but a nurse? What has the world come to? Breton said ‘I'm not gonna be the one percent of people that has a problem.’ What if she is?