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Health Team

Pregnant women participate in H1N1 vaccine trial

Posted September 23, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2009 6:29 p.m. EDT

— Though the H1N1 flu vaccine isn't ready for public distribution, some women have enrolled in a trial of the vaccine at Duke University Medical Center's prenatal care clinic.

Twenty pregnant women are participating in the safety trial for the vaccine. Duke is among six trial sites across the country.

The vaccine won't be available to the general public until mid-October, which is not soon enough for study participant Brianne Buchanan.

“That would only be two weeks before my due date, so I’d much rather have protection now,” Buchanan said.

Duke obstetrician Dr. Geeta Swamy said pregnant women are more vulnerable to complications of H1N1, also known as swine flu, and not just from the typical symptoms like fever, cough and gastrointestinal problems.

“The significant complications seem to be related to pneumonia, in particular,” Swamy said.

Study participants get two test doses about three weeks apart to determine the best dosing amount for pregnant women.

“There's also a few blood samples taken at each of those visits so we can actually measure the body's immune response to the vaccine,” Swamy said.

With H1N1 flu already a pandemic – hundreds of people across North Carolina have contracted the illness – many pregnant women are more concerned about catching it than they are about the risks of taking a trial vaccine.

“Almost yearly, the flu vaccine is novel, and it's usually a guess. This one actually we know what we're targeting,” Buchanan said.

Though the trial is small, a few more women are needed. All participants must be Duke patients because they're also collecting cord blood to see if there's an immune response that reaches the fetus.