Cold or flu vaccination in pregnancy not tied to autism in children

Vials of flu vaccine.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pregnant women who get the flu, or a flu vaccine, do not increase their baby’s risk for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data on 196,929 children born from 2000 to 2010 in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California healthcare system after at least 24 weeks of pregnancy.

During the follow-up periods ranging from two to 15 years, 1.6 per cent of the children were diagnosed with ASD. Among the mothers of that 1.6 percent, less than 1 percent had the flu during the pregnancy, and about 23 percent had received a flu vaccine.

Neither influenza infection nor vaccination during pregnancy were tied to children diagnosed with ASD, the research team reports in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Our data showed quite convincingly that there was no connection with the flu at any time during pregnancy and autism in the child,” says senior author Lisa Croen, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland.

“We are not recommending that changes be made to the vaccination policy,” Croen told Reuters Health. “We are encouraging women to get vaccinated during pregnancy.”

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Previous studies on possible links between flu during pregnancy and ASD had produced mixed results, Croen and her colleagues note in JAMA Pediatrics. And until now, they add, no studies had looked for connections between the ASD and the flu vaccines, which are recommended for pregnant women.

People with ASD may have social, communication and behavioral problems that can lead to them to communicate, to learn and to behave in ways that differ from the most people, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A second study, published in the same journal also found no link between vaccines against influenza A (H1N1) – sometimes referred to as swine flue during the pregnancy in 2009-2010 and complications later in life for more than 60,000 Danish children.

The results support the overall safety profile of the vaccine, write the researchers, who were led by Anders Hviid, of the Statens Serum institut in Copenhagen. They support the World Health Organization’s recommendations that pregnant women need a flu vaccine.

While the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine, it is especially important for some people – including pregnant women who have a greater chance of complications from the virus.

“Flu during pregnancy is dangerous,” said Dr. Loralei Thornburg, a high-risk pregnancy expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. “We know that women who have the flu are much worse, and we know that their babies do worse.”

Pregnant women with influenza may be at an increased risk of premature labor and delivery, according to the CDC. There is also a greater risk of birth defects in their babies.

“There are a lot of fears of the vaccine, but the data suggest that they are effective and do not increase the risk of autism and other perinatal complications,” said Thornburg, who was not involved in the new studies. “The benefits greatly outweigh and risks or theoretical risks that we’ve seen.”

SOURCE: and JAMA Pediatrics, online November 28, 2016.

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