The recent H1N1 influenza pandemic has highlighted the potential for viral infections to cause severe disease in mothers disproportionate to the general population and have deleterious effects on the fetus. Vaccines have been used in pregnant women for over 200 years. Current guidelines recommend vaccination with only inactivated virus due to potential risk to mother and fetus with live vaccine. The exception is during times of pandemic or biological weapons attack, when the risk of life-threatening disease outweighs the risk of vaccination. A paucity of data is available regarding actual risk and mechanisms of live viral vaccine transfer from mother to fetus. Pregnancy-induced changes to the maternal immune system, effects of maternal infection on neonatal immunity, and the role of the placenta in transmission of infection and passive immunity to the fetus are incompletely understood. The aim of this paper is to review available data pertaining to newer vaccines such as the pandemic H1N1 and HPV vaccines in pregnancy, the role of Fc receptors in active transport of immunoglobulin across the placenta, and cytokine activity during maternal infection and after vaccination. We will also discuss potential areas for future research.
Keywords: Fc receptor, fetus, immunization, placenta, pregnancy, vaccination, H1N1 influenza, viral infections, deleterious effects on the fetus, mother and fetus, transmission of infection and passive immunity to the fetus, smallpox, communicable diseases