A once in a lifetime opportunity: Vaccination at birth

Baby Newborn and NurseNewborn babies can’t be immunized against most diseases because they’re unable to mount effective immune responses to most vaccines. Instead, pediatric vaccines are given at two, four and six months of age, when the immune system is more responsive. But that leaves newborns—with undeveloped immune systems—highly vulnerable to severe infections. Worldwide, more than two million newborns and infants under six months of age die from infectious diseases every year.

Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, in the Division of Infectious Diseases, wants to change that by developing vaccines that will work in babies. He’s been studying how to enhance the immune system at birth so that newborns can respond to vaccines effectively. On Friday, the researcher received a $2.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop vaccines for newborns.

Ofer Levy, MD,MPH
Ofer Levy, MD,PhD

Levy notes that the ability to vaccinate newborns—rather than wait until they reach 2 months of age—would provide important global health benefits. “In many countries, birth is a point of contact with healthcare systems,” he says. “Families may not see a health care provider after that. From a global health perspective, if you can give a vaccine at birth, a much higher percentage of the population can be covered.”

Even in wealthier nations, newborns, particularly those born prematurely, are vulnerable to infections during the two-month window before immunizations begin. “By boosting the immune response to vaccines, we hope to not only be able to close this window of vulnerability, but also reduce the number of doses needed,” says Levy. “If we can get vaccines to work effectively in a single dose in these young infants, we can reduce costs and avoid giving patients multiple injections.”

With the support of this grant, Levy’s team will develop a new, cutting-edge in vitro platform to model human newborn immune responses to vaccine formulations, in hopes of predicting vaccine safety and efficacy. “Moving forward, we hope this will become a very important platform for evaluating pediatric vaccines,” says Levy.

12 thoughts on “A once in a lifetime opportunity: Vaccination at birth

  1. A once in a lifetime opportunity to ruin a child’s complete DNA profile. A once in a lifetime opportunity to uarantee a particular set of children will never see a healthy day in their lives.

    A once in a lifetime opportunity, funded by the Gates Foundation to do human medical experimentation completely in the open.

    Josef Mengele would be jealous.

  2. Enhance or overstimulate the immune system? Isn’t this what’s already done with adjunctives? Will this not inspire autoimmunity?

  3. I don’t agree with this article. Mother’s breast milk is the best thing you can give your newborn. Not injecting them with toxic chemicals that are made for a 180lb man. And you wondering why childhood diseases are rising as we inject more and more chemicals in their body.

  4. Will this madness never end? What makes this doctor believe the immune system HE is determined to create for newborn infants .. is better than the immune system that newborn already has?

    The professional arrogance of modern medicine is absolutely astounding.

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