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Flu shot in pregnancy protects newborns

Mothers-to-be impart antibodies to offspring that pay dividends later

By
10:42am, October 8, 2008

A pregnant woman who gets a flu shot passes protection on to her fetus that lessens the newborn’s likelihood of contracting the flu during the first months of life, researchers report in the Oct. 9 New England Journal of Medicine.

Although the vaccine has been shown to be safe, no randomized trial has evaluated the shot’s effectiveness in a clinical setting — until now.

“I think this will now make a difference,” says study coauthor Mark Steinhoff, a pediatrician at JohnsHopkinsUniversity in Baltimore and the Cincinnati Children’s HospitalMedicalCenter. “If you want to protect the baby and be careful, maybe the vaccine is a way to do that. I think more women will ask for it,” he says.

Vaccinating pregnant women against influenza is approved and even recommended by U.S. medical authorities and by the World Health Organization, but few mothers-to-be get a shot.

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