The first maternal vaccine designed to protect babies from infection by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has a new roadmap to guide its introduction worldwide. ISGlobal, an institution supported by “la Caixa”, contributed to preparing the report, developed by the Advancing Maternal Immunization (AMI) collaboration coordinated by PATH and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
During more than one year, over 60 experts from 25 organisations including ISGlobal and 14 countries, analysed gaps and actions related to RSV, one of the most frequent causes of respiratory infections in infants. The analysis comprised four areas: the burden and impact of RSV infection; the characteristics of the vaccine (expected to receive approval next year); economic aspects related to its development and implementation; and issues related to its delivery and integration into the health system, an area in which ISGlobal greatly contributed.
Based on this analysis, the working groups defined a roadmap - a series of actions required to achieve three objectives: i) availability of a safe, effective and affordable vaccine; 2) decisions based on evidence to support its adoption; 3) systems and services that deliver the vaccine routinely, efficiently and equitably.
“This vaccine is considered first-in-its-class,” explains Teresa Aguado, senior adviser to ISGlobal and member of the experts team; “it will be the first vaccine approved for exclusive use in pregnant women, the first vaccine against RSV, and a vaccine where the goal is to introduce it in low-income countries as quickly as possible after its introduction in high-income countries.”
RSV causes 1.4 million infant hospitalizations every year, and around 120,000 deaths in children under five, particularly in low-income countries. “In Mozambique, around 11% of children admitted to the hospital due to pneumonia has a RSV infection, and the mortality is high,” explains Azucena Bardají researcher in ISGlobal's Maternal, Child and Reproductive Health Initiative, who also worked on the report.
Immunising pregnant women is a very effective way of protecting their babies in the first months of life, when they cannot yet receive many routine vaccines and are therefore highly vulnerable to certain diseases. In many countries, maternal immunisation is recommended and routinely implemented for diseases such as tetanus, flu and pertussis. “The roadmap for maternal immunization against RSV will help adapt a strategy to each context and country, and pave the way for other future maternal vaccines,” explains Jessica Fleming, Director of AMI and Maternal Immunization Delivery Lead at PATH, in her post.