It sounds like it could be risky, to the mother and especially to a baby with an incredibly weak immune system. Unfortunately, infants under six months old are unable to receive a flu shot specifically for that reason.
But what about pregnant mothers? Mothers pass on the antibodies through their placenta which can filter out and dilute potency – would this make a difference? Seems the answer is yes, it does.
Should Pregnant Women Get A Flu Shot?
June 23, 2011 – Newborns born to mothers who received a influenza (flu) vaccine while pregnant are almost 50% less likely to be hospitalized for the flu than infants born to mothers who didn’t receive the vaccine during pregnancy, according to a new joint study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and colleagues.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends the influenza vaccination for anyone older than 6 months of age, but specifically singles out higher risk groups, including pregnant women, who have a greater risk of flu-related complications.
“It is highly recommended that all pregnant women receive an influenza vaccine during their pregnancy because it is known that pregnant women have increased morbidity and mortality during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period if they get the flu” said Katherine A. Poehling, M.D., MPH., an associate professor of pediatrics and head researcher on the study. “We also know that mothers pass important antibodies through the placenta to the fetus. This study showed us that receiving a flu vaccine during pregnancy not only protects the mother, but also protects the baby in its early months of life.”
The study is the first population-based, laboratory-confirmed study to directly demonstrate this benefit, and will appear in the June issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Risks Involved And Results?
Infants less than 6 months of age have higher rates and are the most at risk for flu hospitalization among all children, Poehling explained, yet the influenza vaccine is not effective or licensed for children that young.
The researchers analyzed the data collected by the CDC and Prevention-funded New Vaccine Surveillance Network over the course of seven flu seasons between 2002 and 2009, before the H1N1 pandemic. The data included details on 1,510 babies who were hospitalized with fever, respiratory symptoms, or both within the first six months of their life and had undergone laboratory testing for influenza infection.
The researchers found that infants born to mothers who had received the flu vaccine during pregnancy were 45% to 48% less likely to be hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza.
“Similar results have been published from other studies, but those were published in general journals or journals about pediatrics and infectious diseases,” Poehling said. “Where the information is published really does make a difference because pediatricians need to know about it, but it’s even more important that the doctors taking care of pregnant women – obstetricians and gynecologists – know it, too. Pediatricians have been vaccinating children for a long time, but vaccine recommendations for OB/GYNs have changed over the last decade, which means everyone is having to learn new recommendations and adjust. This is a relatively new activity for OB/GYNs.”
Contact: Jessica Guenzel
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center