The flu vaccine lowers the risk of getting flu. It also lowers the risk of serious illness due to flu. Newborn babies have a higher risk of serious illness due to flu. They may even need to go to hospital. The risk is especially high during the first months after birth, when babies are even more vulnerable. When a pregnant woman gets the flu vaccine during pregnancy, she creates antibodies that go to the baby through the placenta. That means that the baby is protected against flu right from birth.
The flu vaccine also protects the pregnant woman directly. Pregnant women who have flu are more likely to need hospital admission than women of the same age who have flu and are not pregnant.
It is not clear if pregnant women are more likely to get flu, compared to women who are not pregnant. This topic has not been researched. However, pregnant women are more likely to get infections in general.
It is estimated that around 10–15% of all newborn babies in the Netherlands get flu each year. In about 300 newborn babies every year, flu causes symptoms such as tightness of the chest or shortness of breath, leading to hospital admission. Serious flu leads to ICU admission for about 10–20 babies every year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised flu vaccination for all pregnant women worldwide since 2012. Almost all European countries (and many other countries elsewhere in the world) have been vaccinating pregnant women against flu for years. Various studies carried out in these countries have shown that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and does indeed have a positive effect.
In the Netherlands, the flu vaccine has been recommended for all pregnant women since 2021. Before that, only pregnant women with underlying health conditions were advised to get the flu vaccine.
Newborn babies of mothers who had the flu vaccine during pregnancy are about 35% less likely to get the flu than babies of unvaccinated mothers. After flu vaccination during pregnancy, the risk that infants will be admitted to hospital due to flu is around 70% lower. Vaccinated pregnant women have about 50% less likely to get the flu during pregnancy, compared to unvaccinated women.
Yes. The flu vaccine is safe for both pregnant women and babies. It is an inactivated vaccine that does not contain any live virus.
The flu vaccine is as safe for pregnant women as it is for women who are not pregnant. Any side effects that occur are almost always mild, and almost always go away within two days. The most common side effect is a response at the injection site. This may take the form of a painful sensation. The most common side effects after that are muscle ache and feeling unwell.
Almost all European countries (and many other countries elsewhere in the world) have been vaccinating pregnant women against flu for years. This is how we know that flu vaccination during pregnancy is safe for pregnant women and for babies. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy does not lead to complications or other negative consequences for pregnant women or babies.
The advice is to get the flu vaccine from week 22 of the pregnancy. This autumn, women who have been pregnant for 22 weeks or more in the period from 15 October until 1 March can be referred for a free flu vaccine by their midwife or obstetrician. The flu vaccine is free for this group. If you have not yet reached week 22 of your pregnancy between 15 October until 1 March, you cannot get the free flu vaccine. Pregnant women who are invited for flu vaccination by their GP because of a medical condition can still get the free flu vaccine.
Yes. You can get the vaccination from week 22 until the end of your pregnancy, but the advice is not to wait for too long. If you get vaccinated in time, there will be enough time to pass your antibodies on to your baby – even if your baby is born prematurely. The antibodies that the mother creates after vaccination lower the risk that the baby will get the flu. Pregnant women also have a lower risk of getting flu for the rest of their pregnancy. Usually, a baby is protected if the mother is vaccinated against flu at least two weeks before giving birth. However, getting vaccinated less than two weeks before giving birth still gives some protection.
No. Pregnant women with a medical condition will be invited to get the seasonal flu vaccine. This is unrelated to their pregnancy. The invitation will be sent by their GP. They can get vaccinated at any time during their pregnancy, even before week 22.
The main reason to vaccinate pregnant women with an underlying medical condition is to protect pregnant women from serious consequences of flu. That is why these women are advised to get the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy.
The main reason to vaccinate pregnant women without an underlying medical condition is to protect newborn babies. That is why these women are advised to get the flu vaccine after week 22 of their pregnancy.
The flu vaccine has no effect on any other vaccinations. That includes the 22-week vaccination against whooping cough. You can get both vaccinations at the same time.