When Moms Can Give Babies a Shot

Flu shots in pregnant mothers protect babies from pneumococcal infection with PCV vaccine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Vaccines protect people from diseases. Pregnant women who get vaccinated can pass on that protection to their developing babies. And it seems some of that protection may last even after birth.

A recent study found that babies get a bit of extra protection from their mothers if the mothers get a flu shot during pregnancy.

Babies get routine vaccines to protect them against pneumonia-related illnesses, which can develop if they catch the flu. But they're too young to get flu vaccines.

This study showed that having both the vaccine for the pneumonia-related illnesses and the prenatal protection from their mother's flu shot together offered babies better protection against ear infections and respiratory infections.

The vaccine for pneumonia-related illnesses did protect children on its own, but the overall protection was increased when mom had been vaccinated while pregnant for the flu too.

"Ask your OB/GYN about vaccines you may need."

This study, led by Katharina van Santen, MSPH, of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, looked at the effectiveness of the pneumococcal vaccine for babies and of a pregnant woman's flu vaccine for her baby after birth.

People who get the flu are also at risk for getting secondary pneumonia infections. However, children under 6 months old cannot get the flu vaccine.

Meanwhile, the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) protects against pneumococcal infections like pneumonia, but babies are not fully protected against these infections until they get their third PCV dose at 6 months old.

Therefore, one option for protecting children younger than 6 months against the flu and secondary infections is for their mothers to be vaccinated against the flu while pregnant.

The researchers gathered vaccination information for 9,807 mothers and their babies, born between June 2002 and December 2009.

They determined which children had received the pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine and which mothers had received the flu shot while pregnant.

Then the researchers looked at how many of the children had acute ear infections and/or respiratory infections requiring medical care up through their first birthday.

Children were excluded from the study analysis once they had received their own flu vaccine or if they were partly vaccinated with the PCV vaccine but were not up to date.

The researchers determined that administering only the PCV to babies was about 30 percent effective in preventing respiratory infections requiring medical attention.

However, if the child was vaccinated for PCV and the mother got a prenatal flu vaccine, the effectiveness in preventing these respiratory infections rose to 40 percent.

Similarly, for children vaccinated against PCV, the vaccine was 38 percent effective in preventing ear infections.

For children vaccinated against PCV whose mothers were vaccinated against the flu, the combination was 48 percent effective in preventing ear infections.

Therefore, the researchers concluded that babies vaccinated with PCV were better protected against acute ear infections and respiratory infections requiring medical attention if their mothers were vaccinated against the flu as well.

The study was published July 12 in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Information regarding funding and disclosures was unavailable.

Review Date: 
July 31, 2013
Last Updated:
August 9, 2013