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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differences in pandemic influenza vaccination policies for pregnant women in Europe

Johannes M Luteijn1*, Helen Dolk1 and Gordon J Marnoch2

Author Affiliations

1 EUROCAT Central Registry, Institute of Nursing Research/School of Nursing, University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, BT37 0QB, UK

2 School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, BT37 0QB, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:819  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-819

Published: 20 October 2011

Abstract

Background

An important component of the policy to deal with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 was to develop and implement vaccination. Since pregnant women were found to be at particular risk of severe morbidity and mortality, the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control advised vaccinating pregnant women, regardless of trimester of pregnancy. This study reports a survey of vaccination policies for pregnant women in European countries.

Methods

Questionnaires were sent to European competent authorities of 27 countries via the European Medicines Agency and to leaders of registries of European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies in 21 countries.

Results

Replies were received for 24 out of 32 European countries of which 20 had an official pandemic vaccination policy. These 20 countries all had a policy targeting pregnant women. For two of the four countries without official pandemic vaccination policies, some vaccination of pregnant women took place. In 12 out of 20 countries the policy was to vaccinate only second and third trimester pregnant women and in 8 out of 20 countries the policy was to vaccinate pregnant women regardless of trimester of pregnancy. Seven different vaccines were used for pregnant women, of which four contained adjuvants. Few countries had mechanisms to monitor the number of vaccinations given specifically to pregnant women over time. Vaccination uptake varied.

Conclusions

Differences in pandemic vaccination policy and practice might relate to variation in perception of vaccine efficacy and safety, operational issues related to vaccine manufacturing and procurement, and vaccination campaign systems. Increased monitoring of pandemic influenza vaccine coverage of pregnant women is recommended to enable evaluation of the vaccine safety in pregnancy and pandemic vaccination campaign effectiveness.