A large study of nearly 500,000 moms and babies shows that moms who got a flu shot while pregnant helped their babies stay healthier.

That’s big news, since newborns under six months of age are at the highest risk of getting the flu, which can be dangerous or deadly.

Newborn Luke Mallin may be protected against getting the flu for up to six months, because his mom got a flu shot while she was pregnant.

Luke’s mom, Brittany Mallin, told Ivanhoe, “He’s only two months old, so knowing that he’s going to be protected while under the age of six months when he can’t get the vaccine himself makes me feel very good.”

Julie Shakib, DO, MS, MPH, the medical director of Well Baby Nursery at the University of Utah explained, “There was a 70 percent reduction in lab-confirmed influenza if a mom reported she received the vaccine during pregnancy.”

Dr. Shakib studied health records of 245,000 pregnant women over nine years. She found that babies of women who got flu shots had a 70% reduction in getting the flu, and an 80% reduction in flu-related hospitalizations in their first six months. Ninety-seven percent of baby flu cases in the study were born to moms who didn’t get the vaccine during pregnancy.

Dr. Shakib told Ivanhoe, “Instead of causing harm, this actually causes true benefit for the baby, and that is really what we want moms to take away from the study.”

Brittany knows some people are against vaccines.

“I know there’s some scary research out there that has been discredited that can make people believe that vaccines are scary, but I don’t think they are,” said Brittany.

She said helping Luke avoid the flu just by her getting a shot is worth it.

Dr. Shakib is now trying to find out if breast-feeding increases flu vaccine protection for infants.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Tony D’Astoli, Editor; Jason Ball, Videographer.

BACKGROUND: When pregnant women are vaccinated, the baby receives immunity from his mother. Some vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, should be given a month or more before pregnancy to prevent serious birth defects or a miscarriage.  Other vaccines, like the whooping cough vaccine Tdap, are beneficial to receive during pregnancy. It is safe for a woman to receive vaccines before, during, and after pregnancy. The CDC provides the guidelines for what vaccines are recommended and when they are recommended to be administered. Your doctor may recommend a variety of different vaccines to administer based upon your vaccination and health history.

(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/pregnant-women/index.html)

THE CONTROVERSY: Ninety-five percent of children entering kindergarten have had vaccines for preventable diseases, however, that figure is not spread evenly across the country. States have varying laws over which vaccination exemptions are allowed. Unvaccinated children may not only contract a preventable illness, but they may spread it to vulnerable children who may not be vaccinated due to health risks. Among those who are hesitant to receive vaccinations, 63 percent fear their children could have serious side effects. 55 percent of women report any whooping cough vaccination around the time of pregnancy, with an estimate of only 10 percent receiving the vaccination during pregnancy in 2011. Only 10 percent of pregnant moms receive a flu vaccination. Many believe that receiving vaccinations during pregnancy may harm the child, but they must also take into account the risks of an infant contracting a preventable illness like whooping cough or the flu, which may lead to serious life-threatening complications.
(Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/health/the-unvaccinated/, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/partners/flu-pregnancy-infographic.pdf, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6419a4.htm)
NEW SUPPORT: A new study published in May 2016 shows that receiving a flu vaccination while pregnant significantly reduces the risk of acquiring influenza during a baby’s first six months of life. The authors of the study have declared that the need for getting more pregnant women immunized is a public health priority. The study conducted at the University of Utah School of Medicine reported that infants and mothers who were vaccinated had a 70 percent reduction in laboratory-confirmed flu cases and an 80% reduction in flu-related hospitalizations compared with babies whose moms were not immunized. Pregnant women and young infants are among those at highest risk of dying from the flu.  Although the vaccination rate among pregnant women has increased since the H1N1 pandemic, it is still not high enough, according to authors of the study. Not receiving the flu shot increases risk for severe illnesses from influenza for both the mother and the baby. Complications of the flu during pregnancy include premature labor, babies that are too small for gestational age, hospitalization, and death. Pregnant women can receive the flu shot at any time, during any trimester.

(Source: http://unews.utah.edu/infants-much-less-likely-to-get-the-flu-if-moms-are-vaccinated-while-pregnant/)


Suzanne Winchester

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Julie Shakib, DO, MS, MPH, Medical Director at the Well Baby Nursery at the University of Utah, talks about a recent study regarding influenza shots and pregnancy.
Interview conducted by Ivanhoe Broadcast News in June 2016.

Tell me a little bit about flu study in pregnant moms.

Dr. Shakib: We looked at a large data set nine influenza seasons of moms and babies to determine what the outcomes were for babies if moms received the flu shot during pregnancy. What we found was there was a seventy percent reduction in lab confirmed influenza if a mom reported she received the vaccine during pregnancies compared with mothers who did not reported receiving the vaccine, and also an eighty one percent reduction in hospitalizations for babies born to moms who received the influenza vaccine during pregnancy.

Like hospitalization for anything?

Dr. Shakib: Hospitalization specifically due to influenza.

How long have you – tell me a little bit more about how you did the study?

Dr. Shakib: We looked at deliveries in Utah and Idaho over nine influenza seasons so more than two hundred and fifty thousand mother/infant pairs. We looked for evidence of laboratory confirmed influenza in the babies depending on what their mother’s immunization status was, and then analyzed the difference between the two groups.

How dangerous is the flu is it a huge threat to infants?

Dr. Shakib: Yes, infants younger than six months are at the highest risk for influenza and the biggest problem is that they’re too young to be adequately protected by immunization themselves. They rely on their mothers for protection by the mom getting the influenza vaccine during pregnancy.

How bad is it for an infant to get the flu?

Dr. Shakib: There are very serious outcomes from influenza in infants including hospitalization, pneumonia, sometimes even death.

Is it something that would if they get the flu something that affect them for the rest their life?

Dr. Shakib: If there is respiratory illness and potential damage to their lungs it could be something that affects them later on in life as well.

There’s more and more debate over vaccines in general, have you run into any of that with the moms and vaccines?

Dr. Shakib: I think mothers are looking for good information about what they should do during pregnancy and I think it is understandable that they do worry about what they do during pregnancy. What this study demonstrates is that there is true benefit from receiving the vaccine during pregnancy. Instead of causing harm it actually benefits the baby, and that’s really what we want moms to take away from the study.

What are the side effects?

Dr. Shakib: For any vaccine there are some potential local reactions but compared with the outcome of influenza and the complications related to flu they are very minimal.

Have you run into anything- how about the babies I mean the fetuses is there any harm?
Dr. Shakib: No, actually all the studies that have been done demonstrate that is beneficial to the babies and not harmful.

Then they wouldn’t get sick or –?

Dr. Shakib: Mothers can feel very comfortable that by getting a flu vaccine they’re actually doing something to protect their babies.

if a mom came and said I really don’t want to do it. I don’t believe vaccines I’m afraid I might hurt my baby what do you tell them?

Dr. Shakib: You actually help your baby by getting a flu shot rather than hurting your baby. That’s, what the study demonstrates. That’s why we’re excited to spread this message to pregnant women so they understand the benefit.

I heard you say that you’ve worked on the flu season nine years so in the very beginning you must have been somewhat confident that this was going be a helpful step.

Dr. Shakib: This specific study was a retrospective study. We’ve done previous studies that have demonstrated benefit from maternal immunization during pregnancy. This is just more evidence that it’s the right thing to do during pregnancy.

Are there other immunizations that maybe might help as well, mumps, rubella, anything like that?

Dr. Shakib: Yes. The other immunizations that are very beneficial to moms during pregnancy are the pertussis immunization or whooping cough vaccine called Tdap.

Because that would help the infant it as well?

Dr. Shakib: Maternal Tdap during pregnancy also benefits the infant. It provides protection to the infant before the infant is born. It’s basically a 2-for-1 protection..

What else haven’t I asked you that you think is important to include?

Dr. Shakib: I think those are the main points.

Is the study finished now?

Dr. Shakib: This study is finished. We’re doing other studies to further evaluate the benefits of maternal influenza immunizations and breast-feeding during pregnancy. We’re excited about those studies as well.