Navigating seasonal vaccines in pregnancy

Pregnant people have plenty of options for a “double benefit” of protection against the usual lineup of fall viruses.

As fall emerges, Dr. Alisa Kachikis, an OB-GYN and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UW Medicine, encourages pregnant people to consider getting vaccinated against flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus. The RSV vaccine is available for the first time and acts as a maternal immunization that, in turn, also protects the fetus.

“When the baby's born, the baby can start off life with a head start — with a large amount of antibody against RSV illness,” Kachikis said. Infants are among those at high risk of a severe illness from RSV.

The updated COVID-19 and flu vaccinations similarly supply a “double benefit,” she added. “They protect the pregnant person from getting infected and having the respiratory illness. And then in pregnancy, pregnant individuals make antibodies that can cross over the placenta to the baby, and also protect the baby in the first months of life." 

She encourages anyone who is pregnant, or planning to become pregnant in the coming months, to broach any questions they have with a clinician. 

“Vaccines are very safe in pregnancy, but it's normal to have some questions about them or hesitation to receive them,” Kachikis said. “It's really important to have open and frank conversations with your prenatal health providers about the vaccines because, ultimately, it's really important to be protected and to help protect the baby after birth.” 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on protection against viruses during pregnancy. 

Related:  Vaccines During and After Pregnancy resource (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 

UW Medicine