Giving influenza vaccinations to pregnant women can protect their babies against seasonal flu even after birth, according to new research.
The study, by US scientists and conducted in Bangladesh, found that rates of the disease among infants born to mothers who were given a flu jab were reduced by 63%.
The scientists randomly assigned 340 mothers-to-be either to receive the flu jab Fluarix (GlaxoSmithKline) or the pneumonia vaccine Pneumovax (Sanofi Pasteur) in the last three months of pregnancy. Mothers and infants were observed over a 16-month period.
Flu shots are not given to infants younger than six months, but the research suggests that by vaccinating pregnant women, newborn infants can be safeguarded against flu.
Study leader Professor Mark Steinhoff, from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, said: "Even though there is no flu vaccine for these children, our study shows that a newborn's risk of infection can be greatly reduced by vaccinating mom during pregnancy.
"It's a two-for-one benefit. Pregnant woman should be encouraged to be vaccinated for the flu to protect their infants and themselves."
The research will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.