A new analysis finds that new mothers and obese people are at higher risk of complications from severe cases of the flu.
Both groups have not been previously recognized as vulnerable, the researchers said.
However, the global analysis, sponsored by the World Health Organization, also found that pregnant women aren't especially threatened by complications of influenza. For that reason, the researchers said, pregnant women don't need to get special priority for vaccinations.
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"Policy makers and public-health organizations need to recognize the poor quality of evidence that has previously supported decisions on who receives vaccines during an epidemic," study author Dr. Dominik Mertz, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said in a university news release.
"If we can define the risk groups, we can optimally allocate vaccines, and that is particularly important when and if there is vaccine shortage -- say during a new pandemic," he said.
The researchers reached their conclusions after reviewing 239 studies conducted between 1918 and 2011. They examined complications of influenza, including hospital admission, pneumonia, assistance with breathing via respirator, and death.
"These data reinforce the need to carefully define those conditions that lead to complications following infection with influenza," study senior author Dr. Mark Loeb, a microbiologist and professor of medicine at McMaster University, said in the news release.