UPMC data: When pregnant women get the flu vaccine, it helps protect their babies

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash.

UPMC Children’s Hospital took part in a new study that found that if pregnant women get the flu vaccine, it dramatically reduces the chance their newborn will go to the emergency room or be hospitalized for the flu.

Children’s was one of seven hospitals around the country that studied how the flu vaccine in pregnant moms protected newborns who can’t get the flu vaccine until they’re six months old. They found it reduced hospitalizations or ER visits in young babies by about one-third.

For the youngest babies — those under three months old — hospitalizations and ER visits went down by half.

But many women don’t realize how valuable the flu vaccine can be. And they may assume it’s better not to get it while pregnant.

Despite the benefit of the flu vaccine, historically only about half of pregnant moms get the flu vaccine. Dr. John Williams, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital, wants to help women learn that they don’t need to fear the vaccine. Instead, it can help them and their babies.


“I think it’s very natural that pregnant mothers are always concerned about everything they put in their body – what they eat, what they drink,” Dr. Williams says. “What we know about flu shots is the flu vaccine has been about the same for about 50 years. And so we have tons of evidence to show that it’s very safe during pregnancy. It is not associated with preterm birth or adverse outcomes for the mother or for the baby. It’s very safe and effective.”

The study also found racial and ethnic disparities in who got the flu vaccine and which kids who were more likely to get sick: It found that unvaccinated pregnant people were more likely to be non-Hispanic Black, so their babies are born without the early protection the flu vaccine can offer.

Dr. Williams says this is likely in part because these pregnant people may have less access to health care and to regular doctor’s visits.

Click here for more information on the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.