NEW YORK - Reuters
Adding to evidence that the flu shot is safe for pregnant women, a new study finds no link between the vaccine and the risk of serious birth defects.
The study, of nearly 9,000 pregnant women who got the flu shot, found that about two percent had a baby with a major birth defect, such as a malformation in the heart or a cleft lip. That was identical to the rate among almost 77,000 pregnant women who did not get the vaccine.
What’s more, researchers found, women who got vaccinated were less likely to suffer a stillbirth (a pregnancy loss after the 20th week): 0.3 percent did, versus 0.6 percent of unvaccinated women.
Their newborns also had a lower death rate: 0.2 percent died soon after birth, compared with 0.4 percent of babies born to unvaccinated moms.
It’s not clear if the flu vaccine deserves the credit. But Dr. Jeanne S. Sheffield, the lead researcher on the work, said it’s possible the vaccine helped by preventing severe cases of the flu.
“Can we say for sure that it’s the vaccine? No,” said Sheffield, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
But, she added, these findings suggest that the flu shot is at least safe, and possibly has a benefit against stillbirth.