Flu vaccine. Photo: Vladimir Gerdo/TASS via Getty Images

A majority — 65% — of pregnant women in the U.S. said they were unvaccinated for influenza and whooping cough, according to a Vital Signs report released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: Only 9% of women in the U.S. ages 15–44 become pregnant each year. But pregnant women accounted for at least 34% of influenza-related hospitalizations each season between 2010 and 2018. Newborns who contract influenza or whooping cough are at a high risk of hospitalization and death, as they are too young to be vaccinated.

For both vaccines, lack of vaccination coverage affected women with lower socioeconomic status, black women, those who were publicly insured or who lived in the South.

By the numbers:

  • 54% of pregnant women reported getting a flu vaccine before or during pregnancy.
  • Flu vaccination reduces a pregnant woman's risk of hospitalization for their infants younger than 6 months by an average of 72%.
  • Nearly 70% of the babies younger than 2 months old who are hospitalized for whooping cough die.

As part of routine prenatal care, the CDC advises that all pregnant women obtain a flu vaccine during any trimester, and the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) during the early part of the 3rd trimester.

Expectant mothers hospitalized for infections like the flu, pneumonia and sepsis are at a greater risk of having a child with depression or autism spectrum disorder, a March study published in JAMA Psychiatry reports.

Go deeper: Health officials urge Americans to get flu shots before November

Go deeper

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