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Flu shots and babies

October 13, 2008|Linda Searing | Washington Post

The question: If a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, might the child she's carrying be protected after birth?

The study: Researchers randomly assigned 340 women in the third trimester of pregnancy to get a flu shot or a shot that contained a vaccine against meningitis and pneumonia. Twenty-two children born to the women developed a flu infection in their first six months. Infants whose mothers had gotten flu shots while pregnant were 63% less likely to have the flu than were the other children. Also in the children's first six months, other respiratory illnesses accompanied by a fever occurred about a third less often in the infants and mothers in the flu-shot group than in the children and mothers who did not get a shot.

Who may be affected? Newborns. A flu vaccine has not been approved for children younger than 6 months. Flu vaccinations have been recommended for pregnant women since 1998, but experts estimate that just 15% of pregnant women get a flu shot.

Caveats: Flu vaccines change each year to combat specific strains of the virus; testing with a different vaccine might yield different results. Use of a pneumococcal vaccine rather than a placebo in the study may have reduced the number of other respiratory illnesses among participants.

Find this study: In the Oct. 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

To learn more: About vaccinations during pregnancy, go to www.marchofdimes.com. Learn about flu shots at www .kidshealth.org (on parents' site, search for "flu").

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