Purpose of review: To review the literature on using maternal immunization as a strategy to prevent infections in young infants aged below 6 months
Recent findings: Maternal immunization continues to reduce the incidence of neonatal tetanus worldwide. Despite increased influenza-related morbidity and mortality in pregnant women and in infants aged less than 6 months, compliance with US recommendations for immunization against influenza in pregnancy is poor. Polysaccharide vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis are safe and immunogenic in pregnancy. Protein conjugate vaccines against these infections would be likely to induce higher maternal antibody levels and improve placental transport, thereby further reducing the maternal and infant disease burden. Further studies of acellular pertussis vaccines for use in adolescents and adults should evaluate if maternal immunization could prevent life-threatening pertussis in young infants. Maternal immunization against group B streptococcus is projected to be superior to screening and/or chemoprophylaxis strategies in decreasing infant disease.
Summary: Maternal immunization, with the passage of protective antibody to infants, is a potential strategy to prevent infection in infants who have not completed their primary immunization series from both specific infections of infancy and vaccine-preventable illnesses. Further evaluation of this strategy is supported by medical literature, but liability and educational barriers exist.