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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Emory: Zika Epidemic Highlights Need for Priority Vaccine Research and Guidelines for Pregnant Women

The recent outbreak of Zika virus disease and its link to fetal development highlights the need for pregnant women and those of reproductive age to be a priority group for developing and evaluating new vaccines and vaccine guidelines for Zika and other emerging infectious diseases, say the authors of a new Viewpoint article in JAMA.

Three recent global infectious disease outbreaks – H1N1 influenza, Ebola and Zika have had specific implications for pregnant women and their unborn children, yet the global public health community lacks the best tools for dealing with this special group.

Public health policy and research must overcome several barriers to developing vaccines for pregnant women, say authors Dr. Saad B. Omer, professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University and Dr. Richard H. Beigi, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and chief medical officer at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

“These barriers are surmountable with concerted efforts and leadership,” say the authors. “Strategic planning and action have allowed for advances in pediatric drug development and provide a good model. However, the time to act is now, before the next epidemic takes its toll.”

Barriers include:

Efforts to improve the quantity and quality of research in vaccines and drugs for infectious diseases in children could be translated into increased research for pregnant women, the authors say. The Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act and the Pediatric Research Equity Act were enacted to address the lack of information available to prevent and treat disease in children, and similar legislation could foster more research in pregnancy and pre-pregnancy and overcome the barriers to better vaccines and more effective clinical practices.