Clinical Practice: Our Responsibility to Our Patients During Flu Season

It’s flu season again—time to start vaccinating your patients, particularly those who are pregnant.

ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend all persons six months and older receive an annual flu shot. This is particularly important for pregnant women, who are at increased risk of severe disease and hospitalization related to influenza.

Pregnant women who receive a flu vaccine also provide some protection to their babies through placental antibody transfer. This is extremely important, because babies are vulnerable to flu and cannot be vaccinated until six months of age.

For the past several years, influenza vaccination rates in pregnant women have hovered around 50 percent. While this is a huge improvement, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent.

This flu season, ACOG encourages you to take simple steps to protect your patients:

  1. Educate all patients, especially pregnant women, about flu vaccination and the severity of influenza disease.
  2. Strongly recommend and offer flu shots to all patients in your practice, particularly pregnant women. Flu shots can and should be given as soon as the vaccine is available.
  3. Document flu conversations and flu vaccine administration in your patients’ chart, and when possible, your state’s immunization information system.
  4. Lead by example—educate and vaccinate yourself and your staff against influenza.

To help you take these steps, ACOG has a multitude of resources on influenza and influenza vaccination:

Maternal Influenza Review Program

From 2013-2015, ACOG conducted a Maternal Influenza Review Program pilot project. The goal of this project was to identify systems gaps and other barriers resulting in hospitalization of pregnant women due to influenza. After reviewing cases of pregnant women who were hospitalized with influenza in four states during the 2012-2013 flu season, the project identified several areas for improvement:

  • Need for further training of providers to better identify influenza among pregnant women, particularly in urgent care and emergency settings
  • Need to provide patient education on the risks of not receiving the flu vaccine when pregnant
  • Need for increased integration of care between ob-gyn, primary care, urgent care centers, emergency departments, and hospitals.

Most of the cases reviewed were in fact vaccinated against influenza prior to hospitalization. This finding emphasizes the need for all pregnant women to be treated for influenza if they present with influenza-like illness, regardless of vaccination status.

For more information on the Maternal Influenza Review Program, view the MIRP Manual.

For questions regarding influenza or ACOG’s resources, please contact immunization@acog.org

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC  20024-2188 | Mailing Address: PO Box 70620, Washington, DC 20024-9998