Do women who have themselves fought off an infectious disease supply their newborn children with stronger defences against infection than vaccinated mothers?

Editorial Board

Editorial Board

November 17th, 2021

Editorial Board

For measles, mumps and rubella, the answer is yes. An infection with the wild viruses which cause one of these diseases stimulates the maternal immune system more strongly than vaccination. That’s why paediatricians generally administer the first MMR vaccine a little earlier than was common practice a couple of decades ago.

However, for many other diseases, there is no such link. The maternal immune system does not produce any transferable antibodies during an infection with whooping cough, so their baby doesn’t benefit from their mother’s immunity.

Then there are yet another group of diseases – such as diphtheria and tetanus – where maternal immune protection can be detected in babies whose mothers have been vaccinated, but not in children whose mother has not had the disease.

That’s a long way of saying: “Sometimes. It depends on the disease.”

For more information, see ‘Vaccination – 20 Objections & Responses’, produced by the Robert Koch Institute and Paul Ehrlich Institute