Group B Strep Support welcomes the news that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Pfizer a $100 million grant to support the development of their group B Strep vaccine.
Globally, around 90,000 babies die each year and 46,000 are stillborn due to group B Strep, with over half of these in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently no vaccines available to stop group B Strep infections. The prevention strategies that higher-income countries use – risk factors in the UK, or routine antenatal testing in most other high-income countries – only prevent GBS infection in the first week of life, and are often out of reach in lower and middle-income countries.
Group B Strep causes infection immediately before birth or in the first three months of life. It affects vulnerable young babies before they have developed mature immune systems that can fight off life-threatening infections. For this reason, vaccines for group B Strep are being developed to immunise the mother so that she can transfer protective antibodies to her baby before birth.
A group B Strep vaccine would be given to pregnant women during pregnancy to prevent infections in babies around birth, and in the early weeks after birth. Vaccines used during pregnancy have been proven to be safe and effective. A group B Strep vaccine will be of great benefit to pregnant women and their babies around the world, especially in lower-income settings. It really is a case where ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’
A group B Strep vaccine is a key target of the World Health Organisation’s Defeating meningitis by 2030 Global Road Map, which Group B Strep Support contributed extensively to as part of the Technical Taskforce. The Road Map calls for creating global guidelines on group B Strep prevention by 2025 and introducing a group B Strep vaccine by 2030.