Friday, June 24, 2011

Pssst! Immunity . . . Pass it On




# 5648



Two related stories today involving expectant mothers and vaccines that have been in the news over the past 48 hours.


Both suggest that one of the best ways to protect a newborn baby against influenza and pertussis is to vaccinate the mother before she gives birth.


In both cases, newborn infants are too young to receive vaccines during the first months out of the womb, but may acquire limited immunity from antibodies passed on from the mother.


First from the Advisory Committee On Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting this week, a recommendation that pregnant women and other adults who will be in close contacts with a soon-to-be born infant receive the Pertussis vaccine.


CIDRAP has the details in last night’s news scan. 



ACIP recommends pertussis vaccine for pregnant women

To protect infants in a time of increasing pertussis cases, pregnant women as well as teens and other adults in close contact with newborns should receive pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, an advisory group to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), also recommended meningococcal vaccine for high-risk infants at 9 months, according to MSNBC. The CDC still needs to decide on the recommendations but often follows ACIP guidance.

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A second report, this time from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, revolves around a study that appears this month in American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.


Impact of maternal immunization on influenza hospitalizations in infants

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2011; 204 (6): S141 DOI:

Katherine A. Poehling, Peter G. Szilagyi, Mary A. Staat, Beverly M. Snively, Daniel C. Payne, Carolyn B. Bridges, Susan Y. Chu, Laney S. Light, Mila M. Prill, Lyn Finelli, Marie R. Griffin, Kathryn M. Edwards.


It found that by analyzing data collected by CDC and the New Vaccine Surveillance Network between 2002 and 2009 (before the H1N1 pandemic), that infants born to mothers who had received the flu vaccine during pregnancy were more than 45% less likely to be hospitalized with laboratory confirmed influenza.


This isn’t the first time that studies have shown the benefits to the newborn child derived from maternal vaccination.  


Last October, in Study: Protecting Two With One Shot I blogged on Lisa Schnirring’s CIDRAP News story regarding a study that showed that babies born to mothers who received the flu vaccination experienced fewer infections and hospitalizations during their first six months than babies whose mothers did not.


And two years before that, we had a study conducted in Bangladesh (see CIDRAP’s Study: Flu shots in pregnant women benefit newborns) that offered pretty much the same conclusion.


Pregnant women (and their unborn child) are at particularly high risk from influenza due to changes in the mother’s immune system during pregnancy.  This is something I’ve written about often, mostly recently in BMJ: Perinatal Outcomes After Maternal 2009/H1N1 Infection.


Which is why the CDC encourages pregnant women to get the flu vaccine.


Pregnant Women Need a Flu Shot!

Photo: A woman with her healthcare professional.

Photo Credit – CDC

If you're pregnant, a flu shot is your best protection against serious illness from the flu. A flu shot can protect pregnant women, their unborn babies, and even their babies after birth.


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While the importance of maternal flu vaccination has been stressed in pediatric journals in the past, this most recent study is geared for the OB/GYN audience, which will hopefully induce them to recommend flu shots to their patients.


For more on this, here is a link to the Press Release.


Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Influenza vaccination during pregnancy protects newborns

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – June 23, 2011 – Infants born to mothers who received the influenza (flu) vaccine while pregnant are nearly 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized for the flu than infants born to mothers who did not receive the vaccine while pregnant, according to a new collaborative study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and colleagues.

(Continue . . . )



And for more on the re-emergence of Pertussis in this country, you may wish to read:


California Reports 9th Pertussis Fatality of 2010
California Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Update
California: Pertussis Epidemic

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