This site is intended for health professionals only

Flu vaccine in pregnancy also protects infants

By Lilian Anekwe

Babies whose mothers were immunised against flu while pregnant are less likely to develop a respiratory illness in their first six months of life, according to a observational study by US researchers.

They studied questionnaire data from 1,100 women on demographics, vaccination status and flu risk factors, as well as blood samples to test for flu antibody response. This was then compared with data on influenza-like illnesses in their children.

Babies whose mothers had been vaccinated had a 41% lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza and a 39% lower risk of hospitalisation with flu-like illness following their birth compared to babies born to unvaccinated women.

Study leader Dr Angelia Eick, an epidemiologist at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Maryland, concluded: ‘Although influenza vaccination is recommended for pregnant women [in the US] to reduce their risk of influenza complications, these findings provide support for the added benefit of protecting infants from influenza virus infection up to six months

‘The finding are particularly relevant with the emergence of H1N1 virus, which had a substantial impact on pregnant women and high hospitalization rates among young infants.'

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med., published online October 4 2010