While the flu season may be a thing of the past, it will only be months before parents scramble to get their kids to the doctors for the vaccination, to help keep them immune from this illness. But what about infants? The rule is, babies younger than six month of age cannot receive this shot, so at times, pregnant moms will get immunized to help protect their unborn children from this virus for. However, according to a recent study, it seems that this maternal flu vaccination can only protect infants for the first eight weeks after they are born; increasing their chances to contract the flu, from this point on, until they can receive the shot.
It is no secret that infant babies are at an increased risk of hospitalization, if they catch the flu. As such, most doctors will recommend that pregnant moms step and get the shot, to protect both the baby and themselves. However, it is unclear just how long an infant is protected by this shot, once it is born.
Marta C. Nunes, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and her team, decided to find out more information in regards to the length of time a maternal flu shot is effective for. The research team reviewed data from over 2,000 babies from moms who participated in a random clinical trial. A little over 1,000 babies received maternal flu shots; while pregnant; while close to the same number of infants in the study had moms who simple were given placebo.
As a part of the study, the team took blood samples of these babies at seven days, eight weeks, and 24 weeks after being born. The samples were reviewed to see if hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) antibodies were present. HAI signals the levels at which the vaccine is protecting the body from the flu. It is important to note, the higher the levels of HAI, the stronger the protection against the flu.
Medical News today reported that all babies were also reviewed for physical flu symptoms regularly, all the way to the age of six months.
What the study revealed was that the maternal flu vaccine did offer protection for the infants until they reach six months; however, the level of protection fell drastically after the first eight weeks of their lives.
The proof is in the numbers: the shot was revealed to be just over 85% effective in the first eight weeks of the infants lives; yet fell to about 25% between the eight to 16-week mark. Oddly enough, protection levels increased slightly to just over 30%, once the babies were 16 to 24 weeks old.
As per the results of the study, the team notes that the flu vaccination during pregnancy may not offer adequate protection for babies, past the first eight weeks after their birth. The research team adds to this, saying the results highlight that differing approaches need to be found, to protect infants from the flu, from eight weeks on.