A study published online in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, earlier this week found that when women were given the vaccination in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, their babies are significantly less likely to develop flu, and the baby’s blood showed evidence of antibodies to the flu.
“Influenza infection in young infants can be a serious disease,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Katherine O’Brien, a pediatrician and professor in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.
“There are several ways to protect young infants against influenza. One of them is to ensure that they are in contact with young infants immunized for influenza. Another way is to practice good hygiene and hand washing. This study shows if pregnant women are immunized during pregnancy, it can provide protection to the baby”, he said.
Infants under six months were more likely to seriously ill or die from flu infection than older children. This according to background information in the study. However, influenza vaccine is not approved for children under the age of six months.
Young infants may acquire antibodies against several strains of influenza from their mother’s blood, but this immunity may not match the current peredaraan flu strains in the vaccine that includes the current year.
To assess whether the vaccine is given to the mother will give any immunity to their offspring, the researchers examined 1160 mothers who gave birth during one of three influenza seasons.
All mothers living in both the Navajo or the White Mountain Apache Indian. O’Brien said people who live in this region have a higher risk of respiratory illness during influenza season than residents of other regions in the country.
During the study, 49% of women choose to get a flu vaccine during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
The researchers found 41% reduction in risk of flu infection in infants whose mothers received influenza vaccine. Infants born to mothers who received influenza immunization also has 39% reduced risk of hospitalization due to flu.
When the researchers tested blood samples of infants, they found that babies whose mothers have high levels of antibodies have been vaccinated against flu strains are good, than infants with mothers who choose not immunized.
O’Brien said she believed the findings could be generalized to other populations. “There is no reason to believe that this is not going to be an important strategy to protect all the babies,” she said.
“We already know that pregnant women are at higher risk of morbidity from influenza. We already know what to vaccination only to prevent disease in pregnant women. However, this study gives us another reason for the positive, to encourage influenza vaccination,” says Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the influenza vaccine program at PATH, a global health non-profit organization.
“Pregnant women should receive influenza vaccine, and if they do not want to do it yourself, this is the reason that you can protect your unborn baby, in addition to protecting you,” says Neuzil.