Flu shots during pregnancy are safe for mother and baby, says new study
For expectant moms worried about getting the flu vaccine while pregnant due to safety reasons, new research provides some relief.
A study conducted in Canada suggests it's safe for both baby and mom when mom gets vaccinated during pregnancy, the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Researchers monitored the health outcomes of 104,000 children born in Ontario during the swine flu scare between November 2009 and October 2010. Among the sample, 31,295 of the babies were born from moms who opted to get the flu vaccine while pregnant, while 79,954 were born from moms who decided against it. The findings showed that during the first five years of their lives, the babies from moms who received flu shots while pregnant were no less healthy than the babies from moms who didn’t.
Deshayne Fell, Ph.D., a CHEO Research Institute scientist and senior author of the study, told Ottawa Citizen that the “influenza vaccination during pregnancy is—by all available evidence—safe for mothers and their offspring.” Dr. Fell continued, “This is really important because we know that getting the flu shot in pregnancy reduces the women’s chance of getting the flu—and they’re a high-risk group." (A 2014 study, for example, found that pregnant women have a very strong immune reaction to the flu.)
Receiving the flu shot while pregnant has the added benefit of protecting the baby from getting sick. Dr. Fell explained to Ottawa Citizen that maternal antibodies cross the placenta when women are vaccinated during pregnancy, and that this provides babies with passive immunity for the first six months of their lives.
The findings are noteworthy considering the fact that many pregnant moms do not get their flu shot because of the perceived safety risks involved. In the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 49 percent of pregnant women opted to get a flu shot during the 2017-2018 flu season. Meanwhile, in Canada, where the study was conducted, only about 20 percent of pregnant women get a flu shot, the Ottawa Citizen reports. Also, babies under 6-months-old actually have the highest risk of dying from flu-related illness, according to a study published in Pediatrics. What’s even worse is that they can’t be vaccinated until after they’re 6-months-old.
On their website, the CDC suggests pregnant women get the flu shot before or during pregnancy, depending on whether it's flu season or not, but says some vaccines, like the measles, mumps and rubella, should be given a month or more before pregnancy.