Safety of Live-Virus Vaccines in Infants After In Utero Biologic Medicine Exposures

O Zerbo et al. Pediatrics 2022; 150: e2021056021. Open access: Safety of Live-Attenuated Vaccines in Children Exposed to Biologic Response Modifiers in Utero

This large retrospective cohort study (2006-2017) identified 960 infants with in utero biologic medicine exposures (most commonly etanercept, anakinra, adalimumab, and infliximab) among 582,759 infants. Key findings:

  • Receipt of live-attenuated rotavirus vaccine in their first year or measles vaccine during their first 24 months were not at increased risk of prespecified adverse events compared to unexposed children
  • There was not a significant difference in diarrhea, bloody stools, intussusception, vomiting, encephalitis, myelitis, hepatitis, ataxia, or fevers
  • Receipt of the recommended number of doses of rotavirus vaccines in the first year of life was lower among biologic-exposed than among unexposed children (81.00% vs 85.20%, adjusted OR = 0.74)

Examples of guideline recommendations with regard to live-virus vaccination:

The Toronto Consensus Statements for the Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Pregnancy,” (Gastroenterology. 2016; 150(3):734–757) states the following: “live vaccinations are not recommended within the first 6 months of life in the offspring of women who were on anti-TNF therapy during pregnancy.”

Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Pregnancy Clinical Care Pathway: A Report From the American Gastroenterological Association IBD Parenthood Project Working Group (Gastroenterology. 2019; 156(5):1508– access)” states the following: “if the mother is exposed to any biologic therapy, other than certolizumab, during the third trimester of pregnancy (ie, after 27 weeks gestation) avoidance of live vaccines is recommended for the first 6 months of life.”

In their discussion, the authors note that this “provide some reassurance to parents and pediatricians regarding live-attenuated vaccines for children exposed to BRM [biologics] in utero. Professional societies may want to consider reevaluating their live-attenuated vaccines recommendations for these children as new safety data accumulates.”

My take: There are clearly theoretical concerns about biologic-exposures of infants in utero since some are actively transported across the placenta barrier and can remain in infants for up to 12 months after birth. However, this study could not identify significant adverse effects in exposed infants.

This is an impression from a starfish (no starfish in this picture)