Concerned about the persistence of low maternal vaccination rates, despite the potentially lifesaving benefits for both mother and baby, a group of fifteen leading maternal health and vaccine stakeholders have published a white paper that aims to provide a better understanding of the factors that may be driving and contributing to continued maternal immunization challenges.
In Improving Maternal Immunization Status: Working Toward Solutions to the Policy, Data, and Implementation Challenges Driving Suboptimal U.S. Maternal Vaccination Rates, maternal health and vaccine experts posit two primary evolving challenges impeding even the most robust efforts to close vaccination gaps: inadequate high-quality maternal immunization data, and issues related to coordination and implementation of maternal immunization programs on the ground.
Despite well-documented evidence of the efficacy, safety and benefits of maternal immunization, many individuals are not receiving the influenza and Tdap vaccines recommended during the course of pregnancy, leaving mothers and their babies vulnerable to potentially life-threatening complications associated with these diseases.
While barriers to immunization are well understood and many legislative, programmatic and community level efforts to address them exist, recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates project only 40.3 percent of all pregnant individuals receive both influenza and Tdap vaccines. In some populations, these disparities are even more pronounced—assessments of maternal immunization rates among Black and Hispanic populations, for example, estimate that only 23 percent of Black individuals and 25.4 percent of Hispanic individuals received both recommended vaccines during the course of their pregnancy.
The white paper also underscores that while the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated maternal immunization challenges, it has also raised important conversations on barriers to vaccination and prompted increased policy momentum and investment in resources and infrastructure related to immunization. These efforts, according to the paper’s authors, have the potential to serve as a foundation for broader-reaching future activities. “The data and surveillance systems created in response to COVID-19 can and should be leveraged to capture comprehensive data for adult vaccination coverage, including maternal immunization rates,” said Beth Battaglino, CEO of HealthyWomen, a registered nurse and an author of the white paper.
L.J. Tan, Chief Strategy Officer of Immunization Action Coalition, also an author of the paper emphasizes that, “While data- and implementation-related challenges to maternal immunization have been discussed previously, they have not historically been the central focus of conversations around maternal immunization.” To that end, according to Gretchen C. Wartman, Vice President for Policy and Program for the National Minority Quality Forum, and one of the paper’s authors, “This white paper provides an essential analysis of how data and implementation limitations intersect with existing efforts to redress maternal immunization barriers and mitigate amenable maternal and infant risk.”
Authors of the white paper represent the following leading organizations: Adult Vaccine Access Coalition, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Public Health Association, AHIP, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses, HealthyWomen, Immunization Action Coalition, March of Dimes, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition for Infant Health, National Minority Quality Forum, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Vaccinate Your Family
This white paper was supported by funding from Pfizer.