Autism Not Linked to Flu or Flu Shot During Pregnancy

A study of nearly 200,000 children finds no increased risk for autism among kids whose moms caught the flu or received a flu vaccine while pregnant.

Kerry Grens
Kerry Grens
Nov 29, 2016

WIKIMEDIA, PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS LAURIE DEXTERKids whose mothers were infected with flu or who received a flu shot while pregnant are no more likely to develop autism than other children. That’s according to a study of more than 196,000 children published in JAMA Pediatrics yesterday (November 28).

“Our data showed pretty convincingly that there was no association with influenza at any time during pregnancy and autism in the child,” senior author Lisa Croen of Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland told Reuters Health. “We’re not recommending that any changes be made to the vaccination policy. We are encouraging women to get vaccinated while pregnant.”

Prior studies have produced a mixed bag of results about the association between infection during pregnancy and autism risk. To determine whether there is a link between maternal influenza and autism, Croen and colleagues examined the medical records of 196,929 kids born in California between 2000 and 2010. After adjusting for potential confounders, such as the child’s sex and the mother’s health, Croen’s group found no difference in autism risk between kids whose moms got the shot, or were infected, and those whose moms weren’t exposed to the virus or its antigens.

“Autism links as the authors stated are complex, and autism is a diagnosis over time,” Diane Harper of the University of Louisville told MedPage Today. “Continued observation and epidemiology will be necessary to continue to follow this question.”

As for other vaccines, multiple studies have found no association between autism and routine shots. Although one recent study published in Frontiers in Public Health on November 21 did report a positive association, the paper is now getting a re-review due to heavy criticism about its poor quality and potential conflicts of interest, Retraction Watch reported.