Flu shot during pregnancy vaccinates newborn babies, too, says NEJM study

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Vaccinating an expectant mom also vaccinates the baby–for the first six months of its life outside the womb–according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Influenza causes more serious consequences in pregnant women and newborns than in the general public.  It can also lead to birth defects.  So what were the bottom-line findings of the study?

The infants whose mothers were vaccinated–mostly in the third trimester–had 63 percent less lab-proven flu.  They were monitored until 6 months old.

This is important because, as the NEJM study states:

Infection with influenza virus is associated with serious illnessand hospitalization among pregnant women and young infants,including neonates.Maternal influenza infection has beenassociated with an increased risk of maternal hospitalization,fetal malformation, and other illnesses.Influenza infectionin young infants often prompts hospitalization and can predisposethe infants to bacterial pneumonia or otitis media.Studiesfrom North Americaand Hong Kong have shown high rates ofhospitalization among infants with influenza, especially thoseunder 6 months of age.The rate of hospitalization for suchinfants is higher than that for other high-risk groups. A nationalsurvey in the United States showed that childhood deaths associatedwith influenza are most frequent in infants under the age of6 months.

The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get the “inactivated” flu vaccine.  That’s the shot.  The nasal spray is “live attenuated” and should not be given.

If you are pregnant, write down to ask your health-care provider about getting the flu shot at your next appointment.  It’s important.

Does anyone have reservations about getting the flu shot?  Has anyone had experience with the flu when pregnant, or in your newborn?

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5 Responses to “Flu shot during pregnancy vaccinates newborn babies, too, says NEJM study”

  1. Blake Says:

    Thanks for this. My wife is 4 months pregnant with our first and I didn’t know about his. I will send this to her so she can read it too. Great info to have.

  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    I am glad to help. Just make sure she checks with Dr. first. Flu shots are usually given in November and December.
    Thanks

  3. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Blake,
    I just read an update from the CDC. They recommend the flu shot whenever it becomes available. Keep in mind it takes 1-2 weeks for it to become effective after you get it. The flu usually hits in Dec/Jan and can last through March (rarely it can hit as early as Oct). I get mine in early November because I have read that the antibodies lose their peak after a few months, but the CDC says it is plenty effective throughout the entire flu season. I may get mine in late October with this news.

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