Pregnant women head the list of people who should get H1N1 swine flu and seasonal flu shots, and four new studies highlight the benefits of vaccination for moms-to-be and their babies.
Bigger, healthier newborns, fewer preterm births and reduced rates of hospitalization top the findings, which are to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America in Philadelphia.
In one study, U.S. researchers analyzed data on 6,410 births in Georgia and found that the risks of premature delivery and having a low birth-weight infant were significantly reduced among the 15 percent of women who received a flu shot during pregnancy.
During the height of the flu season premature births among vaccinated women fell 70 percent, compared with unvaccinated women, Dr. Saad B. Omer, an assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, said during a news conference Thursday at which all four studies were discussed.
And the likelihood of having a small baby was reduced 70 percent, Omer added.
Similar positive results would likely be seen among women getting the H1N1 vaccine for swine flu, Omer said. Studies have found in previous flu pandemics that pregnant women were at risk for giving birth prematurely to underweight babies, he said.
In another report, Yale University School of Medicine researchers, led by Dr. Marietta Vazquez, an assistant professor of pediatrics, looked at the relationship between pregnant women who got flu shots and hospitalization rates for those infants.
The researchers found that the mother's flu shot during pregnancy was 78.9 percent effective in preventing her non-vaccinated infant from being hospitalized during the first year of life and 85.3 percent effective in preventing hospitalization from infancy to 6 months.
In another report, a team led by Dr. Mark C. Steinhoff, director of the Global Health Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, looked at the relationship between flu shots and birth weight in Bangladesh.
Women who were vaccinated were 30 percent less likely to develop respiratory illness with fever, and those women had substantially heavier infants than unvaccinated women, the researchers found. The study confirmed that pregnant women who get the flu are at risk for giving birth to significantly underweight babies.
In addition, flu among infants whose mothers were vaccinated was reduced 63 percent, Steinhoff said.Source