April 26, 2010

Vaccination study gives weight to infant health

Researcher Saad Omer and his colleagues wanted to determine if vaccinating pregnant women against the flu would affect their babies’ health.
While in Bangladesh, Omer and his colleagues collected data on pregnant women who had been immunized against the flu to see if the vaccine protected their newborns as well. The researchers then tested their infants’ immune response and clinical outcome.

Here is what they found: a 62 percent reduction in infant disease, a strikingly high impact gained from vaccinating only the infants’ mothers. Omer, an infectious disease epidemiologist, says this reduction in disease is important in light of emerging evidence that babies younger than six months are highly vulnerable to contracting the flu. However, a vaccine has yet to be approved for that age group.

Omer and his colleagues also found that pregnant women in Bangladesh who were vaccinated against the flu delivered heavier newborns, a marker of good health. “Our group had some initial evidence from Bangladesh that if you give moms the flu vaccine, infants achieve a reasonably better birth weight,” says Omer. “We found a difference of 200g, which sounds small, but it’s a lot in terms of birth weight.”

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