Montreal

Pregnant women urged to get H1N1 shot

Pregnant women who don't get the H1N1 vaccine are at the highest risk of becoming sick and infecting their fetuses, public health experts in Montreal warn.

Pregnant women who don't get the H1N1 vaccine are at the highest risk of becoming sick and infecting their fetuses, public health experts in Montreal warn.

Only about 7,500 of an estimated 16,000 pregnant women on the island of Montreal have shown up at H1N1 vaccination clinics, public health officials said Tuesday.

Now hospitals are starting to see newborns infected with the A (H1N1) virus, said Dr. Diane Francoeur, chief of obstetrics/gynecology at the Sainte-Justine Hospital.

Pregnant women "catch everything", from colds to gastrointestinal infections and the flu, Francoeur warned, adding their best line of defence during the pandemic is vaccination.

"Because there haven't been that many deaths, people are returning to normal habits — they're kissing, holding hands," Francoeur said at a news conference Tuesday.

"The arrival of a new child is a happy occasion, and we don't want to isolate pregnant women during the holidays, especially because that increases the risk of postpartum depression. The vaccine is the best solution because it offers an almost perfect protection," she said in French.

"It's the only way to protect your little baby."

Babies under six months cannot receive the vaccine, and while it is possible for a woman in labour to get the shot, it's not ideal, Francoeur said. The best solution is to get inoculated well before your due date, she said.

There was confusion in the early days of the vaccine campaign but it's now clear that with or without the adjuvant — an additive that boosts the immune system's response to a vaccine — the vaccine isn't dangerous for pregnant women, said Dr. Richard Lessard, from Montreal's Public Health Agency.

If pregnant women feel strongly about avoiding the vaccine, it's better they stay away from people as much as possible before delivering and until their newborns are six months old, Lessard said.

The H1N1 vaccine is now available to all Quebecers.

now