Will You Reduce Your Baby’s Risk of Autism By Getting a Flu Shot During Pregnancy?

Can the flu shot prevent autism? According to the Mayo Clinic it can. Image by the CDC.

Can the flu shot prevent autism? According to the Mayo Clinic it can. Image by the CDC.

The Mayo Clinic announced that getting a flu shot while pregnant may reduce your baby’s risk of developing autism. Dr. Greg Poland, Mayo Clinic vaccine researcher, stated in the Mayo Clinic video, “And what they found was that, in the pregnant women who had gotten the vaccine, the risk of autism in their children was reduced 2-to-3 fold. And the risk of bi-polar disorder reduced 4 to 6 fold.”

Is this too good to be true? Can the flu vaccine really reduce autism rates?

Flu Vaccine During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism Studies: None Exist

The Mayo Clinic cites three studies to back up their claim that a flu shot can reduce an unborn baby’s risk of developing autism. None of the studies explicitly examined autism rates in babies of vaccinated moms. The Mayo Clinic’s doctors made these conclusions based on certain assumptions, and some data available from the studies.

These three studies the Mayo Clinic cites include two studies published in the Journal of Pediatrics, in 2001 and in 2012 respectively, and the third study published in JAMA Psychiatry in May 2013. Let’s examine them one by one.

  • The first study that the Mayo Clinic uses to back up their statement is the “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autistic spectrum disorder: report from the New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations Conference convened in Oak Brook, Illinois, June 12-13, 2000.” In this study, doctors, parents, and scientists presented information from the New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations Conference on the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The panel of experts concluded that the MMR vaccine data does not support the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine causes autism. We assume that the purpose of including this 2001 evaluation is to assure pregnant moms that vaccines do not cause autism,  as it does not address the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
  • The second study that the Mayo Clinic uses to support their ‘flu vaccine during pregnancy’ recommendation is “Autism after infection, febrile episodes, and antibiotic use during pregnancy: an exploratory study.” The goal of this study was to determine the the occurrence of common infections, febrile episodes (fevers), and the use of antibiotics of the mother during pregnancy and the associated risk of autism. The researchers used data from 96,736 children ages eight to 14 years old from Denmark. Out of the 96,736 children, 976 (one percent) had been diagnosed with a form of autism. Researchers concluded that mild infections, febrile episodes, or antibiotics during pregnancy are not strong risk factors for developing autism, but some antibiotics and severe fever did correlate with increased autism risk. This study did not address use of the flu vaccine to reduce these risks during pregnancy.
  • The third study that the Mayo Clinic cited to back their statement was “Gestational Influenza and Bipolar Disorder in Adult Offspring.” In this 2013 study, researchers found that a mother’s exposure to the influenza virus during any point in pregnancy was associated with nearly a four-fold increased risk that their child would develop bipolar disorder as an adult. Researchers concluded that maternal influenza was a risk factor of developing bipolar disorder and that prevention of maternal influenza may reduce the risk of bipolar disorder. This study did not examine the potential reduction in autism rates of babies born to pregnant moms who get the flu shot.

Click to Read Page Two: Flu Shot Safety for Moms-to-Be


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© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH: Health, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy

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Comments

  1. Darla Dollman says:

    It seems as though whenever there’s a study showing a problem with something there’s always another study showing the opposite and you never know who paid for the study. I like this article because it details the process the Mayo Clinic went through to come to these conclusions.

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