Factors That Influence Infant Immunity and Vaccine Responses

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2021 May 1;40(5S):S40-S46. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000002773.


The neonatal period and early infancy are times of increased vulnerability to infection. The immune system of infants undergoes rapid changes and a number of factors can influence the maturation and function of the early infant immune system, amongst these factors are maternal infections and immunity. Infants who are HIV-exposed, but uninfected show important immune alterations, which are likely to be associated with the increased morbidity and mortality observed in these infants. Maternally derived antibodies are crucial in early life to protect infants from infection during the time when their own immune system is becoming more experienced and fully mature. However, maternal antibodies can also interfere with the infant's own antibody responses to primary vaccination. Preterm infants are particularly vulnerable to infection, having not had the opportunity to benefit from the transplacental transfer of maternal antibodies in late pregnancy. In addition, further differences have been observed in the innate and adaptive immune system between preterm and term infants. Here, we focus on maternal influences on the infant immune system, using HIV and maternal vaccination as examples and finish by considering how prematurity impacts infant immune responses to vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Term Birth / immunology*
  • Vaccination*