Confusion over pregnant women and H1N1 vaccines
Published Friday, October 16, 2009 9:53PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:02AM EDT
As the country braces for the second wave of swine flu, there seems to be a difference of opinion between the provinces and Ottawa about which vaccine pregnant women should take.
Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's public health officer, says that pregnant women -- who are considered to be a high-risk group -- should take whatever vaccine is first available if they are seriously concerned about catching the illness.
"At the end of the day, if you're in the middle of the pandemic, whatever vaccine is available, I would take it to protect myself and my fetus," he said.
The first vaccine that will arrive in Canada contains the adjuvant additive, which is a chemical that increases potency.
However, health officials have also ordered a separate batch of vaccines without adjuvant because it hasn't been fully tested for safety on pregnant women.
On Friday, Ontario's top doctor echoed that concern and said that pregnant women "should wait" until the second vaccine becomes available.
"We are recommending that pregnant women receive the unadjuvanted vaccine and we would expect that that vaccine will be available around the week of Nov. 7, and that's what we've been told by the federal government," said Dr. Arlene King in Toronto.
Adjuvant has been used in Europe for vaccines aimed at seniors, but research in pregnant subjects is so far lacking.
According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Rau, it's a balancing act and some women are going to have to choose for themselves.
"Pregnant women are going to have to decide, if there is a lot of flu activity in their area, to just go ahead and get whatever vaccine is available," he told CTV News on Friday.
Meanwhile, hospital staff in Toronto had already started screening pregnant women for the illness on Friday.
At the city's Mount Sinai Hospital, every person coming into the obstetrics and gynecology ward had to answer a questionnaire about flu symptoms.
CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson said that a few women had already shown symptoms and had been asked to wear a face mask.
Joyce Telford, a nurse manager at the hospital, said that many patients coming to the hospital are thankful for the precautions.
Expectant mother Robyn Freed agreed: "You're paranoid enough just going out, so I was happy to have the question(s) and know that everybody in there had been screened, and if you weren't wearing a mask, you were probably feeling okay."
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV's Graham Richardson