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Pregnant women with H1N1 more at risk

July 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new study says pregnant women who get swine flu are at least four times as likely to be hospitalized as other people with the virus. "I am 4 months pregnant. This is our second pregnancy and so far so good," said Mari Abrams.

But this fall, Mari is going to be faced with one of the toughest decisions of her pregnancy: to get the new H1N1 vaccine or not.

"I don't know it's hard it's a very scary decision to make," said Abrams.

The CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices just announced pregnant women should be one of the priority groups to receive the swine flu vaccine. This is based on a new study which found pregnant women made up six percent of the swine flu fatalities last spring.

"Your immune system is so weak and the flu affects you differently when you' re pregnant. It really knocks you down," Dr. Jacques Moritz, Roosevelt Hospital.

While pregnant women top the list, the other four target groups include:

  • Caregivers for infants
  • Healthcare and emergency care personnel
  • Children 6 months to age 18
  • Age 19 through 64 with underlying medical conditions
Those 65 and older did not make the list.

"The H1N1 outbreak so far has spared that population," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC.

The priority target groups include 134 million people -- about half the U.S. population. And health officials concede it's hard to know if and when enough vaccine will be available.

"Production can be unpredictable. Right now we are on track expecting vaccine doses in the fall. Exactly how many will be tough to pinpoint, but we have a lot of planing assumptions that we're working around," said Dr. Schuchat.

Local medical centers who will be on the front lines of the swine flu battle are glad they can start making plans.

"I'm glad that this kind of data is being disseminated early so we can prepare and think about what measure to take," said Dr. Dennis DeLeon, Glendale Adventist.

As for Mari, she's going to need a little more information.

"I dont' know it's scary. I don't know if I'm going to do the H1N1 shot. I think I want to wait and hear more," said Mari.

CDC officials also say that along with the swine flu vaccine, it's very important to get the seasonal flu vaccine, too. That's especially true for those 65 and older.

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