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Mom's Flu Shot May Protect Baby After Birth
Date:10/5/2010

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- When expectant mothers get a flu vaccination, they not only protect themselves throughout their pregnancy but may also help safeguard their babies against flu for the first few months of life.

A study published online Oct. 4 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that when women were vaccinated in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, their babies were significantly less likely to get the flu, and the babies' blood showed evidence of antibodies to the flu.

"Influenza infection among young infants can be a serious illness," said the study's senior author, Dr. Katherine O'Brien, a pediatrician and professor in the department of international health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

"There are several ways of protecting young infants against influenza. One is to assure that those in contact with young infants are immunized for influenza. Other ways are to practice good hygiene and hand washing, as well as keeping infants away from people who are known to be ill. And, this study shows if the pregnant mother is immunized during pregnancy, it affords protection to the infant," she noted.

Infants under 6 months old are more likely to be seriously ill or to die from flu infections than older children, according to background information in the study. But, the influenza vaccine isn't approved for children under 6 months of age.

Young babies may acquire antibodies against some strains of influenza from their mothers' blood, but this immunity may not match the currently circulating strains of flu often covered in the current year's vaccine.

To assess whether a vaccine given to the mother would provide any immunity to her offspring, the researchers followed 1,160 mothers who gave birth during one of three influenza seasons.

All of the mothers lived on either
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