Vaccinating expectant mothers against MenA

Protecting newborn infants from meningococcal A infection and meningitis

Scientific version
  • Start Date:
    13 May 2015
  • Category:
    Prevention
  • Location:
    Public Health England, Manchester, UK, Medical Research Council Unit, Serrekunda, The Gambia
Vaccinating expectant mothers against MenA

What is this project about?

A very successful Men A vaccine (MenAfriVac®) has recently been developed and is currently being rolled out in 26 countries across sub-Saharan Africa through mass immunisation campaigns of everyone between 1-29 years old. But how should this high level of protection be sustained? Vaccinating babies at 9 months old, alongside other vaccinations, has been shown to keep immunity levels high but still leaves younger babies susceptible to infection.

This study will examine the possibility of vaccinating expectant mothers to transfer protection to infants younger than 9 months of age. Such immunity can be transferred across the placenta or through breast milk and both will be investigated in this project. A tetanus toxoid vaccine is already administered to expectant mothers in Africa and, as the MenA vaccine also contains tetanus toxoid, a simple replacement at a very limited cost might be possible. This ‘2in1’ potential will also be assessed.

Why is it important?

Long term approaches to sustaining protection against MenA disease across the meningitis belt are needed if the tremendous success of the recent vaccine roll out is to be sustained. Such approaches must be straightforward to implement with minimal additional logistical support or cost-burden. WHO recommendation on this have huge implications for the countries involved and must be based on high quality evidence whenever possible. Recently, the lack of data on MenA vaccination in pregnancy and the protection it confers, was identified as an important knowledge gap by the WHO. This project will start to address that gap in knowledge.

Potential outcomes

The data generated is expected to feed directly into WHO vaccination policy related to Men A vaccination across the meningitis belt.

Why is it important?

  • To determine the safety and immunogenicity of MenAfriVac® when administered to expectant mothers and to measure the effects of maternal vaccination on the subsequent born infant’s MenA antibody levels up to nine months of age and tetanus toxoid seroprotection at birth
  • To quantify the transfer of MenA specific antibodies across the placenta and in breast milk