Women who received flu vaccines during the 2009 flu season, which was deemed a “pandemic” because of its severity, were more likely to have healthy pregnancies than those who didn’t get their flu shots, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. More from The New York Times:
Typically flu vaccination rates among pregnant women have hovered between 13 to 18 percent nationally. But a push by health officials during the 2009 season drove vaccination rates for the H1N1 vaccine up to about 45 percent in the United States, where they have remained since.
Some expectant mothers have been reluctant to get a flu shot over concern about the health of the fetus, but the study showed that flu vaccination was not only safe but protective, said Dr. Saad Omer of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the senior author of the study.
Dr. Omer and his colleagues looked at the electronic medical records of 3,327 pregnant women between April 2009 and April 2010. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that the infants born to vaccinated mothers had a 37 percent lower likelihood of being premature, and they also weighed more at birth than babies born to unvaccinated women.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning against a common thickener used to help premature babies better consume and digest their food. The warning states that SimplyThick has a risk of causing necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, a life-threatening condition that damages intestinal tissue. More from The New York Times:
An F.D.A. investigation of 84 cases, published in The Journal of Pediatrics in 2012, found a “distinct illness pattern” in 22 instances that suggested a possible link between SimplyThick and NEC. Seven deaths were cited; 14 infants required surgery.
Last September, after more adverse events were reported, the F.D.A. warned that the thickener should not be given to any infants. But the fact that SimplyThick was widely used at all in neonatal intensive care units has spawned a spate of lawsuits and raised questions about regulatory oversight of food additives for infants.
SimplyThick is made from xanthan gum, a widely-used food additive on the F.D.A.’s list of substances “generally recognized as safe.” SimplyThick is classified as a food and the F.D.A. did not assess it for safety.
John Holahan, president of SimplyThick, which is based in St. Louis, acknowledged that the company marketed the product to speech language pathologists who in turn recommended it to infants. The patent touted its effectiveness in breast milk.
However, Mr. Holahan said, “There was no need to conduct studies, as the use of thickeners overall was already well established. In addition, the safety of xanthan gum was already well established.”
The number of premature births in the United States has dropped to 11.7 percent of all births, the lowest number in a decade, and the 5th consecutive year the number has fallen. This news from the March of Dimes in its annual Premature Birth Rate Report Card. Though the U.S. as a whole earned a “C” grade from the report card, four states–Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine–earned “A” grades for their excellent prenatal health education programs and other measures, including smoking cessation programs, that help reduce preterm birth rates.
The March of Dimes has set a goal of reducing the total number of premature births to 9.6 by the year 2020, as the organization’s president, Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, discusses in this video about the report card: