Washington, Oct 27 : Vaccinating new mothers and other family members against influenza can protect newborns against the life-threatening virus, say researchers from Duke Children's Hospital.
The researchers suggest that vaccinating new mothers and other family members against influenza before their newborns leave the hospital creates a "cocooning effect" that may protect infants from contracting the disease.
"The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend vaccinating newborns for flu because they're too young, however they're a part of the population that is at highest risk," said Dr Emmanuel (Chip) Walter, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke Children's Hospital.
"Newborns have the highest rate of hospitalizations due to influenza when compared to any other age group of children.
"Their rates of influenza-related hospitalisation are similar to people age 80 and older.
"We want to protect the newborn by vaccinating the entire family, and send parents home with one less thing to worry about.
"Our study shows that offering the flu vaccine to new mothers during their baby's stay in the hospital is an effective way to assure that all women have the opportunity to get vaccinated and thereby protect their own health and the health of their baby.
"It also proved to be a convenient, and possibly the most effective way for fathers to be vaccinated.
"Protection of the newborn from the dangers of influenza is maximized when those who have the closest contact are vaccinated," he added.
The findings were presented at the annual ICAAC/IDSA meeting in Washington, DC.