Doctors advising pregnant women to get the flu shot as soon as possible

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Doctors are advising pregnant women, those over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions to get the flu shot as soon as possible.

People who fall into those categories have an elevated risk of complications and hospitalization if they get the flu.

"There is a lot of data showing that it's safe and it also helps reduce a pregnant woman's chances of being hospitalized should she be infected with influenza," says Dr. Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital. "It can protect you up to 40 percent more from having to be hospitalized from the disease."

There's a double benefit for pregnant women who get vaccinated: their babies get added protection too.

"The antibodies and the immunity that a pregnant woman is able to build up after vaccination is able to be transferred to the baby, which is helpful in the first few months of life when children younger than 6 months really do not get vaccinated for influenza," said Dr. Hawkinson.

Despite the seriousness of influenza, only about half of pregnant women in the U.S. get the flu vaccine, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older get the flu vaccine, with rare exceptions.

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