September 28, 2016
Written by Esther Landhuis
This article originally appeared on NPR.
Kimberly Richardson has never gotten a flu shot. Since she’s healthy and considers the seasonal vaccines a “best-guess concoction” of the viruses expected to dominate, the northern California gym teacher and mother of two says she didn’t want an “injection of something that may or may not keep me healthy in the long run.”
She’s not alone. In an analysis of 245,386 women who delivered babies at Utah and Idaho hospitals over nine flu seasons, 90 percent said they didn’t get vaccinated for influenza while pregnant. Those who did reaped benefits — their babies were healthier. As a group, infants whose moms reported getting a flu shot during pregnancy had about one-third the risk of flulike illness during their first six months of life, compared to babies of unimmunized mothers.
Disease-fighting flu antibodies are a “gift the mom gives her baby across the placenta,” says Julie Shakib, a pediatrician at the University of Utah School of Medicine who led the study, published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
In 2006, researchers at Kaiser Permanente published a similar analysis of 41,129 babies born between 1995 and 2001. But that study found no correlation between rates of infant illness and flu vaccination in expectant mothers.