NEW YORK: Mothers who take flu vaccinations during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of their babies acquiring influenza during their first six months of life, finds a new study.
The findings showed that infants six months and younger whose mothers were vaccinated when pregnant had a 70 percent reduction in flu cases and an 80 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalisations compared with babies whose moms weren’t immunised.
Health records showed that 97 percent of flu cases occurred in infants whose mothers were not immunised against the disease while pregnant.
“Babies cannot be immunised during their first six months, so they must rely on others for protection from the flu during that time,” said lead author Julie H. Shakib, assistant professor at the University of Utah in the US.
“When pregnant women get the flu vaccine there are clear benefits for their infants,” she added.
Influenza or the flu is a common viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups and can cause a variety of symptoms including aches, chills, fevers, nausea and diarrhea.
Pregnant women are not at greater risk for getting the flu, but because of changes that occur in their bodies during pregnancy, are more likely to be severely affected, explained one of the researchers Michael W. Varner, professor.
The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics, emphasises the need for getting more pregnant women immunised as a public health priority.
The team examined more than 245,000 health records of pregnant women and more than 249,000 infant records for nine flu seasons from December 2005 through March 2014.
Approximately 10 percent of the women – 23,383 – reported being vaccinated while pregnant compared with 222,003 who said they were not vaccinated.
The researchers found a stark difference between the two groups in the number of influenza cases and influenza hospitalisations within six months of birth.
Among the 658 infants identified with influenza, 638 cases – 97 percent – occurred in babies whose mothers were not immunised.
A total of 151 of the 658 infants were hospitalised, with 148 being born to non-immunised pregnant women.