H1N1 Flu Vaccination during Pregnancy Can Save Your Baby's Life

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Researchers state that pregnant women who receive the flu vaccination during their pregnancy can literally save their baby’s life. The flu pandemic of 2009 demonstrated to healthcare professionals that pregnant women and neonatal babies are particularly susceptible to respiratory infection complications and death from infection by the H1N1 flu virus. In a recent clinical trial, women who were pregnant and received a flu vaccination for the H1N1 virus were found to have transferred protective antibodies via the placenta to their unborn baby that resulted in safe and successful immunization for the baby against the flu after birth.

Influenza is a serious, highly contagious illness caused by infection from the flu virus. Its high rate of transmissibility makes it a particularly difficult infection to avoid, especially for pregnant mothers and newborn babies who typically have multiple clinic visits during the first few months following birth. Immunologically, pregnant women and newborns are also particularly susceptible to flu infection in comparison to the general public. According to a study reported in the medical journal The Lancet, ten percent of all serious flu infections were seen in pregnant women.

In response to this influenza threat against pregnant women and their babies, medical professionals developed a clinical trial to determine if pregnant women who received a flu vaccine for the H1N1 virus responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic could produce enough flu antibodies to not only protect themselves from the flu, but also whether the protective antibodies would also pass through the placenta and immunize the unborn baby as well.

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In the clinical trial, 107 women between 22 and 32 weeks of gestation in their pregnancy were given a single injection of the A-type H1N1 vaccine in their arms. Prior to the vaccination, at time of vaccination, at time of delivery and three months following birth, samples of blood were collected from the women and their newborn infants and tested for levels of antibody against the influenza A(H1N1) virus.

What the researchers found was that antibody levels shortly following vaccination in the pregnant mothers increased significantly to levels that are considered high enough to protect them against the flu virus. Furthermore, they also determined that the protective antibodies were passed onto their unborn babies through the placenta and were measured at levels high enough to successfully immunize their newborn against the flu virus.

The importance of these findings is that pregnant women and their unborn babies can both receive protective antibodies against the flu virus from a single vaccination by the mother before the baby is born. This is especially significant because without immunization, the mother and child are highly susceptible to catching the flu. Furthermore, it offers protection to a newborn that cannot otherwise be immunized soon after birth. According to a statement made by Odile Launay, MD, Ph.D., a co-author of the study, “… it is highly recommended to vaccinate pregnant women in order to protect them and their baby, because otherwise the vaccine cannot be administered to babies before the age of 6 months."

Source: Anals of Internal Medicine

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