Pregnant women testing vaccine

September 17, 2009 2:40:12 PM PDT
Tracy Hannold is healthy and so is her unborn son. But she had one scare during her pregnancy: a fast heartbeat that nearly killed the baby.That's why she agreed to take part in one of the first clinical trials of the Swine Flu vaccine in pregnant women.

"Due to the complications I've already had with the baby, I don't want it to get sicker than it's already been. It protects myself and my girl since she's in school if she brings it home that way I hopefully won't get sick," she explained.

Health officials say pregnant women are more susceptible to severe illness or death from the Swine Flu virus. Now, Duke University is one of the few facilities in the country testing the safety of a vaccine on women carrying babies.

"Right now, pregnant women receiving the vaccine is probably the best way for them to provide the most benefit to their soon to be newborn," offered Duke Assistant Professor and OBGYN Geeta Swamy.

What makes pregnant women more at risk to severe reactions to the flu virus are changes to their respiratory and immune systems during the time they're carrying their babies.

Twenty participants in the trial will get two doses 21 days apart and they'll be monitored in several different ways. Their cord blood will be checked too to see how it's affecting the unborn child.

But are these women being put in danger since it's a new flu and new shot?

"We can never say absolutely not. There's always going to be some type of risk with any medication or vaccine," said Swamy. "[But] given it's a reassortment of the viral strain, it's not any different than seasonal vaccine."

"It seems to be pretty similar to the regular flu shot. The symptoms seem to be the same. I never had any symptoms with the regular flu shot so everyone should be fine," said Hannold.

Hannold says she's not nervous - just excited to have a healthy baby boy.

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