Maternal Vaccine Reduces Influenza in Infants

Inactivated influenza vaccine also reduces rates of febrile respiratory illness in infants, mothers
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The use of influenza vaccine in pregnant women can decrease the risk of influenza in their infants up to six months of age and offer protection against febrile respiratory illness in both mothers and infants, according to research published online Sept. 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Khalequz Zaman, Ph.D., of the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and colleagues analyzed data from 340 Bangladeshi women in the third trimester of pregnancy, who were randomized to receive inactivated influenza vaccine or 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Mothers were interviewed weekly from birth until the infant was 24 weeks old to assess illnesses. The researchers focused on influenza or influenza-like illness in infants, and respiratory illness and fever in mothers and infants.

The researchers report that the influenza vaccine was associated with a 63 percent reduction in confirmed influenza illness in infants up to 6 months old, and a 29 percent and 36 percent decrease in rates of respiratory illness with fever in infants and mothers, respectively.

"In summary, the clinical effectiveness of influenza vaccine against both laboratory-proven influenza and several other respiratory illnesses shown in this randomized study is unique evidence supporting the strategy of maternal immunization to prevent influenza infection in young infants and their mothers," the authors write. "Our study suggests that the antenatal-immunization strategy should be evaluated further for the prevention of influenza."

The study was partially supported by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Aventis Pasteur, and two of the study co-authors report financial relationships with Merck and other pharmaceutical companies.

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