Pregnant moms: Get your flu shot!

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A new study finds that pregnant women who get flu shots partially pass the benefits of the vaccine to their offspring. Published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the study examined 1,160 mother-infant pairs on the Navajo and White Mountain Apache Indian reservations. The researchers found that babies whose mothers received flu shots were at a 41 percent lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza virus and a 39 percent less risk of hospitalization from influenza-like illness.

Dr. Ross says the research is particularly important for two reasons: First, infants aren’t eligible for flu shots until they’re six months old; and second, the 2009 pandemic showed that the new endemic H1N1 influenza strain is especially deadly for pregnant women and infants.

In an accompanying editorial, Justin R. Ortiz, M.D., and Kathleen M. Neuzil, M.D., M.P.H., of PATH and the University of Washington, Seattle, say the findings should encourage adoption of maternal immunization guidelines in countries without them. “Maternal influenza vaccination targets two high-risk groups with one vaccine dose,” theywrite. “We can’t afford not to act.”

“We have to reiterate that message — get your flu shot, especially if you’re pregnant,” says Dr. Ross. “It’s especially dangerous now for pregnant women to give in to superstitious fears about vaccines.”