Evaluating the hazard of foetal death following H1N1 influenza vaccination; a population based cohort study in the UK GPRD

PLoS One. 2012 Dec 20;7(12):e51734. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051734. Epub 2012 Dec 10.


Background: To evaluate the risk of foetal loss associated with pandemic influenza vaccination in pregnancy. Retrospective cohort study. UK General Practice Research Database Pregnancies ending in delivery or spontaneous foetal death after 21 October 2009 and starting before 01 January 2010.

Methodology/principal findings: Hazard ratios of foetal death for vaccinated compared to unvaccinated pregnancies were estimated for gestational weeks 9 to 12, 13 to 24 and 25 to 43 using discrete-time survival analysis. Separate models were specified to evaluate whether the potential effect of vaccination on foetal loss might be transient (for ~4 weeks post vaccination only) or more permanent (for the duration of the pregnancy). 39,863 pregnancies meeting our inclusion criteria contributed a total of 969,322 gestational weeks during the study period. 9,445 of the women were vaccinated before or during pregnancy. When the potential effect of vaccination was assumed to be transient, the hazard of foetal death during gestational weeks 9 through 12 (HR(unadj) 0.56; CI(95) 0.43 to 0.73) and 13 through 24 (HR(unadj) 0.45; CI(95) 0.28 to 0.73) was lower in the 4 weeks after vaccination than in other weeks. Where the more permanent exposure definition was specified, vaccinated pregnancies also had a lower hazard of foetal loss than unvaccinated pregnancies in gestational weeks 9 through 12 (HR(unadj) 0.74; CI(95) 0.62 to 0.88) and 13 through 24 (HR(unadj) 0.59; CI(95) 0.45 to 0.77). There was no difference in the hazard of foetal loss during weeks 25 to 43 in either model. Sensitivity analyses suggest the strong protective associations observed may be due in part to unmeasured confounding.

Conclusions/significance: Influenza vaccination during pregnancy does not appear to increase the risk of foetal death. This study therefore supports the continued recommendation of influenza vaccination of pregnant women.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Death*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / pathogenicity
  • Influenza, Human* / complications
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • Influenza, Human* / virology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Survival Analysis
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*

Grant support

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. CJS was funded by a University Research Studentship from the University of Bath. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.