Flu Shot During Pregnancy Can Help Reduce Infant Illness Risk

Women who get a flu shot while they're pregnant help protect their baby from contracting the flu in the first 6 months of life, according to a new study.

Women who get a flu shot while they’re pregnant help protect their baby from contracting the flu in the first 6 months of life, according to a new study.

“Few studies have evaluated the effect of maternal immunization during pregnancy on infant influenza outcomes,” study author Julie H Shakib, DO, MS, MPH, a pediatrician at the University of Utah School of Medicine, told Pharmacy Times. “We realized we had the opportunity to compare infant influenza outcomes by maternal influenza immunization status in a large cohort of pregnant women and their infants.”

The researchers examined all women who delivered babies between December 2005 and March 2014 (9 influenza seasons) and looked at which infants had influenza-like illness (ILI), laboratory-confirmed influenza, and influenza hospitalizations.

Around 10% of the 245,386 pregnant women included in the study reported influenza immunization. Before the H1N1 pandemic, the immunization rate was 2.2%, but after the flu craze, it increased to 21%.

Infants born to women who reported influenza immunization during their pregnancies had risk reductions of 64% for ILI, 70% for laboratory-confirmed influenza, and 81% for influenza hospitalizations in the babies’ first 6 months of life.

The researchers stated that their findings, which were conducted over a long study period, can help encourage pregnant women to get the flu vaccine to can protect their infants from influenza and its complications.

Dr. Shakib noted that pharmacists have an important responsibility to recommend and provide the flu vaccine to pregnant women and their close contacts.

“Pharmacists should take every opportunity to discuss the benefits to both the mother and infant of influenza immunization during pregnancy even before the seasonal vaccine is available each year,” she said. “Pharmacists should also strongly encourage all close contacts of young infants to be immunized against influenza.”

Additionally, pharmacists could help advocate for free influenza vaccines for women who don’t have insurance coverage, Dr. Shakib said.