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Flu Shot in Pregnancy Protects Infants
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Flu Shot in Pregnancy Protects Infants

Women who are vaccinated against flu during pregnancy may significantly reduce the risk of their baby contracting the virus in their first 6 months of life, suggests a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Based on their results, the study authors cite flu immunization during pregnancy as a “public health priority.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone in the United States aged 6 months or older should be vaccinated against the flu virus every year.

Flu vaccination is particularly important for children under the age of 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, and pregnant women. These groups are at the greatest risk for flu-related complications.

Now, a new study further highlights the importance of flu vaccination for expectant mothers. The study found that babies of mothers who receive the shot during pregnancy are much less likely to develop flu in the first 6 months of life.

Babies cannot be immunized for flu in their first 6 months, so they must rely on others for protection during that time,” notes lead author Julie H. Shakib, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

“When pregnant women get the flu vaccine there are clear benefits for their infants.”

Shakib and colleagues analyzed the health records of over 245,000 pregnant women and their offspring - which totaled more than 249,000 infants, including twins and triplets, and even larger multiple births. Researchers looked at health records over nine flu seasons between December 2005 and March 2014.

Around 10% of the women reported getting the flu shot during pregnancy, while the remaining were not vaccinated.

Over the nine flu seasons, laboratory-confirmed flu was confirmed among 658 infants aged 6 months or younger. Of these cases, 638 (97 %) occurred among infants whose mothers had not received the flu vaccination during pregnancy.

A total of 151 of the infants with laboratory-confirmed flu were hospitalized, and 148 of were born to mothers who had not been vaccinated against flu during pregnancy.

Researchers calculated that flu vaccination during pregnancy reduced the risk of laboratory-confirmed flu by 70% and the risk of flu-related hospitalization by 80% for infants aged 6 months and younger.

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