The immune systems of newborn babies are not fully developed, making them vulnerable to infectious diseases.3
Vaccinating during pregnancy can help protect newborn babies from important/serious infections.4 This concept has helped fight some of the major causes of infant death worldwide and is a powerful prevention tool in the UK.5-7
For example, in 2012, the UK experienced a nationwide outbreak of whooping cough, with over 9,300 cases in England alone.8 Later the same year, the UK government introduced the use of a whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women. Data now show that cases of whooping cough are extremely low among infants under 3 months whose mothers have been vaccinated against the disease during pregnancy. In the UK, only one confirmed case was reported between October and December 2021.7
Challenges for maternal immunisation
Despite its effectiveness at preventing disease, not all pregnant women take up their offer of vaccination.
In eligible pregnant women, uptake rates are 64% for whooping cough7 and 38% for influenza.9
For example, whooping cough vaccination rates vary significantly by region in the UK.
Between 30.9% to 82.9%7 of eligible pregnant women received a whooping cough vaccination across the UK.
The roadblocks to wider maternal immunisation uptake in expectant mothers are varied and can be complex – including cultural customs and family opinions, concerns about vaccine safety and mixed messages from providers of antenatal care.10-13
The role of Maternal Immunisation
By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, a mother can simultaneously enhance their own immunity and help protect their child in its first months of life, until the infant's own immune system is developed enough to start protecting itself.1,3
The number of people going to A&E has risen by over 16% in the last decade, partly driven by high numbers of paediatric admissions.14,15 In a time where there is growing pressure on the NHS, we ask ourselves how a focus on maternal immunisations might help.
Raising awareness of maternal immunisation among pregnant women
In the UK, there is a need to raise awareness of the role of maternal immunisation among pregnant women,16 to ensure their babies are born ready.
In a survey conducted by Pfizer in the UK across 453 pregnant women and new mothers, a quarter (25%) of first-time pregnant women responded that they were not aware of the term ‘maternal immunisation’.17
54% of pregnant women surveyed stated that they would not initiate a conversation with their midwife about vaccination during pregnancy.17
Only 19% of pregnant women surveyed said they would proactively raise questions on maternal immunisation.17
Healthcare professionals involved in antenatal care, such as midwives and GPs, play an essential role in raising awareness of maternal immunisation among pregnant women and can provide education on maternal immunisation for both the mother and her unborn baby.18
Maternal immunisation for newborn babies and their mothers.1,2,4,7
Now is not the time to be complacent. It is time to act, by:
|Learning more about the role of maternal immunisations|
|Seeking out advice and information on maternal immunisations, to be confident to ask or answer questions|
|Spreading the word by educating about maternal immunisation|
Together, let us ensure that as many babies as possible, are born ready.
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