The Effect of Oral Polio Vaccine at Birth on Infant Mortality: A Randomized Trial

Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Nov 15;61(10):1504-11. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ617. Epub 2015 Jul 28.


Background: Routine vaccines may have nonspecific effects on mortality. An observational study found that OPV given at birth (OPV0) was associated with increased male infant mortality. We investigated the effect of OPV0 on infant mortality in a randomized trial in Guinea-Bissau.

Methods: A total of 7012 healthy normal-birth-weight neonates were randomized to BCG only (intervention group) or OPV0 with BCG (usual practice). All children were to receive OPV with pentavalent vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B) at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Seven national OPV campaigns were also conducted during the trial period. Children were followed to age 12 months. We used Cox regression to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) for mortality.

Results: The trial contradicted the original hypothesis about OPV0 increasing male infant mortality. Within 12 months, 73 children in the BCG + OPV group and 87 children in the BCG-only group died, all from infectious diseases. Comparing BCG + OPV0 vs BCG only, the HR was 0.83 (95% confidence interval [CI], .61-1.13): 0.72 (95% CI, .47-1.10) in boys and 0.97 (95% CI, .61-1.54) in girls. For children enrolled within the first 2 days of life, the HR for BCG + OPV0 vs BCG only was 0.58 (95% CI, .38-.90). From enrollment until the time of OPV campaigns, the HR was 0.68 (95% CI, .45-1.00), the beneficial effect being separately significant for males (0.55 [95% CI, .32-.95]).

Conclusions: This is the only randomized trial of the effect of OPV0 on mortality. OPV0 may be associated with nonspecific protection against infectious disease mortality, particularly when given early in life. There are reasons to monitor mortality when OPV is being phased out.

Clinical trials registration: NCT00710983.

Keywords: heterologous immunity; infant mortality; neonates; nonspecific effects; oral polio vaccine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Diseases / mortality*
  • Female
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral

Associated data