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Three recent infectious disease outbreaks of global importance—H1N1 influenza, Ebola, and now Zika—have had specific implications for pregnant women. For the H1N1 pandemic, pregnant women and their infants were high-risk groups for severe complications and death. During the Ebola outbreak, there were concerns about worse outcomes among pregnant women and specific concerns regarding vertical transmission of infection to newborns. The current Zika outbreak, with its ostensible association with microcephaly, has direct and highly concerning implications for pregnant women and women of reproductive age.
Yet the global public health community again lacks the optimal tools for dealing with a disease that has specific and important implications for pregnant women. There are substantial knowledge gaps in current understanding of Zika, irrespective of the affected population. However, Zika’s association with adverse fetal outcomes requires that pregnant women be a priority group for developing and evaluating vaccines and other measures. There are several current scientific and structural barriers to developing vaccines for pregnant women. These barriers challenge the ability to prepare and respond to epidemics and are particularly highlighted during a public health emergency that has pregnant women and their unborn fetuses as the primary affected population.
Omer SB, Beigi RH. Pregnancy in the Time of Zika: Addressing Barriers for Developing Vaccines and Other Measures for Pregnant Women. JAMA. 2016;315(12):1227–1228. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2237
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