Flu jab protects against serious birth harms

Large study of pregnant NZ women hospitalised with flu shows vaccinated have lower risk of stillbirths, premature and low birthweight babies.

Helen Petousis-Harris with park background.
Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris says flu vaccination is protective for mothers and babies.

A large study of pregnant New Zealanders hospitalised with influenza shows those who are vaccinated have a reduced risk of stillbirths, premature delivery and low birthweight babies.

The new study, led by University of Auckland doctoral candidate Jazmin Duque, analysed 16 years of data relating to more than 820,000 pregnant people hospitalised in New Zealand between 2003 and 2018 and recorded as having had influenza. See Journal of Influenza and Other Respiratory Diseases.

Previous studies have found vaccination reduces flu-related illness and hospitalisation in pregnant people.

The main finding, that flu vaccination was associated with a lower risk of fetal death (stillbirth), preterm delivery and infants born with low birthweight, was highlighted by the US Centers for Disease Control on 9 November 2022.

The findings come after a New Zealand flu season with lower than optimal vaccination.

“The study should provide reassurance to pregnant women that vaccination is not only safe it is protective for pēpi,” says vaccinologist Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris.

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