Maternal vaccination in South Africa: timing and completeness

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Maternal immunisation is an invaluable public health measure that protects not only the mother, but also the foetus and new-born infant against a host of diseases; and is recommended by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and South African national health authorities. Pregnancy induces a heightened state of immune system vulnerability, leaving women more susceptible to severe influenza outcomes, whilst neonatal tetanus has a fatality rate of between 80-100% in the absence of medical intervention. Maternal immunisation against influenza and tetanus has been successfully utilised as a public health strategy across the globe to uphold maternal and neonatal health. Maintaining coverage is imperative for both diseases as influenza strains change seasonally and tetanus cannot be eliminated, highlighting the importance of continued maternal immunisation. This study aimed to describe the uptake of both influenza and tetanus vaccinations during pregnancy, the completion of the tetanus vaccination schedule and the timing of both influenza and tetanus immunisation within South African antenatal care facilities. In addition, this study described clinical and demographic factors affecting maternal immunisation uptake. Clinical and demographic data were collected in a parent study and were retrospectively analysed in this study using the statistical software Stata. Influenza vaccination uptake within the sampled population was found to be 16.62% (806/4851). The odds of influenza vaccination were significantly higher in women aged 21-30 years, and women with six or more ANC visits. Metro East Cape Town site in the Western Cape outperformed Gauteng sites, with significantly increased odds of influenza vaccination amongst women frequenting that site. Appropriate influenza immunisation: defined as immunisation occurring during the period of either 01/04/2017-31/07/2017 or 01/04/2018-30/06/2018, occurred in 74.86% (530/708) of the cohort. Women who were alcohol users were significantly more likely to receive an influenza vaccine – yet this may be explained by the Metro East site which had the higher influenza coverage having the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy. Of 7105 women, 7031 (98.96%) received at least one dose of tetanus toxoid vaccine (TTV). Of these women, 39.24% (2759) received one dose; 51.06% (3590) received two doses and 9.70% (682) received the recommended three doses of TTV in their index pregnancy. Tetanus schedule completion was significantly more likely in women ≤20 years, and those who presented for their booking antenatal care (ANC) visit in the first trimester. In addition, women with more than three visits had an increased likelihood of TTV schedule completion. The odds of TTV schedule completion were decreased by negatively parity and gravidity, values over one and less than six, and greater than one respectively. Women with hypertension were significantly less likely to receive three TTV doses compared to women without hypertension. Julia Bourne MSc(Vaccinology) Research Report: Version 2.0 v Tetanus immunisation schedule adherence prevalence was 0.60% (4/670) in women with three doses and 90.34% (3209/3552) in women with two. Improvements may be made in South African maternal immunisation coverage, with this study supporting the idea of targeted educational campaigns and a revision of the maternal immunisation schedule to include the tetanus, diphtheria & acellular pertussis vaccine instead of the tetanus toxoid vaccine.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Medicine to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Pathology, Johannesburg, 2023
Maternal immunisation, South Africa, Neonatal immunisation