Clinical Edge

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Pregnant Women and Zika Virus Vaccine Trials

Vaccine; ePub 2018 Sep 27; Goldfarb, et al

Most pregnant women demonstrate a willingness to participate in Zika virus vaccine trials, with a desire to protect the baby as the most important decisional factor. This according to a new study that describes pregnant women’s attitudes toward Zika virus vaccine research participation, as well as perceived barriers to and facilitators of enrollment. 128 pregnant and recently postpartum women attending prenatal care at Massachusetts General Hospital completed surveys about their willingness to participate in 4 hypothetical Zika virus vaccine trials and their motivations for participation. Researchers found:

  • 77% of women surveyed accepted participation in at least 1 hypothetical Zika virus vaccine trial.
  • Women were significantly more likely to accept prospective enrollment in an inactivated vaccine trial vs a live-attenuated vaccine trial or a nucleic acid-based vaccine trial.
  • A desire to protect the baby from Zika was the most important motivator for participation, as well as provider recommendation.
  • Most women who declined participation would reconsider given evidence of safety in pregnancy.


Goldfarb IT, Jaffe E, James K, Drapkin Lyerly A. Pregnant women’s attitudes toward Zika virus vaccine trial participation. [Published online ahead of print September 27, 2018]. Vaccine. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.09.042.


Zika infections have been known to occur since the 1950s but have come to the attention of clinicians in the Western hemisphere over the last few years. The infection can cause profound malformations in children, including microcephaly and brain malformations. In January 2016, the CDC issued travel recommendations for pregnant women traveling to South America, Central America and certain countries in the Caribbean. Having a vaccine available, especially for pregnant women in endemic areas, would make a lot of sense. Before manufacturers would start doing studies to develop a vaccine it would make sense to query women if they would take the vaccine. This study tells us that a large percentage of women would be willing to take this vaccine if it could prevent harm in their child and had a good safety profile. It would be interesting to see how these results would differ from a population of women in Boston to more endemic areas. —John Russell, MD