A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests there’s not only reason to vaccinate against seasonal influenza, but also to vaccinate pregnant women too.
Published in March, the study details a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
First, the team of scientists looked at the benefits of nomenclature.
They found that nomenclature for treating influenza is out of date. For example, the egg-free yellow flu vaccine is against the flu virus strain that’s circulating more commonly, but studies found it increased the risk of children and pregnant women developing bacterial pneumonia, the study states. The yellow vaccine should be renamed “philthy” flu vaccine, CDC officials recommend.
Next, the team studied the effects of a series of injections starting in early childhood, about the same period as vaccinations for other diseases. The first jab inoculates against influenza A viruses (Victoria, H1N1 and H3N2) and so-called “core” influenza B viruses. The second dose inoculates against influenza B viruses, the fifth in a series. The sixth is designed to prevent influenza B virus.
After about a year, the scientists examined the effects of all nine shots. Results showed that, in children, immune systems are stronger against a strain of influenza A compared to both influenza A and B viruses that would be introduced during a general treatment.
Among pregnant women, the best protection came from the fifth injection. When it comes to influenza A virus, women vaccinated before the baby is 6 months old are 10 percent less likely to have a baby who comes down with H1N1 or H3N2 in comparison to those who are not vaccinated.
The study concludes that the small sample size was not large enough to show a firm connection between the vaccine regimen and the protection. But it concludes that “there should be consideration of the use of this vaccine regimen” for both influenza A and B vaccination in a general population.
The national Campaign to Protect Toddlers from Influenza, a coalition of environmental, public health and family health organizations, supports the use of the vaccine protocol.
Dr. Steven Goldstein, president of the Campaign, called the new study an important step toward ensuring that children in the United States have the best shot at protection against infection by seasonal influenza.
While not an ironclad guarantee, the campaign acknowledges that the new study suggests greater protection with the vaccination regimen than with the other vaccine methods.