A study led by a Cincinnati Children’s researcher that details the value of providing influenza vaccines to pregnant mothers was recognized as the best paper of the year by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Mark Steinhoff, MD, Director , Global Health Center, and seven co-authors received the journal’s Bruce Squires Award for their article "Neonatal outcomes after influenza immunization during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial" (CMAJ 2012;184:645-53). The annual award recognizes work that the journal considers most likely to have a positive, relevant impact on medical practice.

The paper reported further analysis of data gathered during a clinical trial that involved more than 340 women in Bangladesh. Initial results about the flu prevention benefits of the vaccine for both mother and newborn were published in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The latest paper showed that vaccinating mothers also increased the average birth weights of their infants by 200g (about  7 ounces).  This was the first report to document the fetal development benefits of providing flu shots to the pregnant mother.

 Although flu vaccines during pregnancy has been policy in the US for more than 50 years, only recently have other countries and agencies recommended the vaccine.  Based largely on the Bangladesh study results, the World Health Organization now recommends flu vaccines during pregnancy because a single shot protects both mother and infant.

In the clinical trial, flu shots were provided when women were in their third trimesters. The timing is important because sick mothers who cannot eat for a few days can interfere with a crucial period of weight gain for the fetus, Steinhoff says.

Steinhoff co-authored the paper with Saad Omer, Eliza Roy, Shams El Arifeen, Rubhana Raquib, Caitlin Dodds,  Robert Breiman and K. Zaman, the senior author.