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Maternal Immunization: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Children

Vaccines can prevent diseases and save lives. Smallpox. Diphtheria. Measles. Tetanus.

Most children receive their first vaccine soon after they're born. But scientists are studying ways that vaccines may protect children even earlier—when they’re still in utero—through maternal immunization.

Most mothers pass antibodies along to the developing fetus naturally in the second and third trimester. But not every mother is able to pass along enough antibodies to continue protecting the child from disease after birth. “There are still 15,000 children that die every day from infectious diseases,” says Kathrin Jansen, Ph.D., Head of Vaccine Research and Development with Pfizer. “So obviously, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Pfizer’s Vaccine Research and Development team is working on maternal vaccines that may help ensure that mothers have enough antibodies to protect their babies against two diseases: group B streptococcus (GBS), which is a bacterial infection that can cause a number of health issues in newborns, including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis[1]; and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which often resembles a mild cold early on, but can progress to a severe illness, such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which is inflammation in the small airways of the lungs[2]. Both conditions can lead to devastating consequences.

Maternal vaccines may be the next frontier in vaccination innovation. And Pfizer is at the forefront of a novel approach to protecting the most vulnerable children.

“If we are successful, we will have an additional tool to reduce childhood disease and childhood fatality,” says Jansen.  



[1], "Group B Strep (GBS): Causes and Types of Infections" 

[2], "RSV in Infants and Young Children" 

Scientists are studying ways that vaccines may protect children even earlier.