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Vaccine. 1998 Aug-Sep;16(14-15):1456-63.

Maternal immunization against viral disease.

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Department of Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


The protective effect of maternal antibody against many viral diseases has been recognized. The use of maternal immunization has been considered as a means to augment this protection in the young infant against disease. Advantages of maternal immunization include the fact that young infants are most susceptible to infections but least responsive to vaccines, that pregnant women are accessible to medical care and respond well to vaccines, that IgG antibodies cross the placenta well during the third trimester, and that immunization of the pregnant woman has the potential to benefit both the mother and the infant. Disadvantages include the potential inhibition of an infant's response to active immunization or natural infection and liability issues with pharmaceutical companies and physicians. Immunization of pregnant women with viral vaccines for poliovirus, influenza viruses, and rubella has been described and maternal vaccination with these vaccines has been found to be safe for both the mother and the fetus. An open-label study of post-partum women immunized with the purified fusion protein of RSV (PFP-2, Wyeth-Lederle Pediatrics and Vaccines, Inc., Pearl River, NY) demonstrated that the vaccine was non-reactogenic and immunogenic; RSV-specific antibody was detected in breast milk. Immunization of pregnant women with purified protein or subunit vaccines could be considered against neonatal viral pathogens, such as respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza viruses, herpes group viruses, and human immunodeficiency virus. Further studies are needed to define the safety and efficacy of maternal immunization.

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