Background: Iron deficiency may impair adaptive immunity and is common among African infants at time of vaccination. Whether iron deficiency impairs vaccine response and whether iron supplementation improves humoral vaccine response is uncertain. Methods: We performed two studies in southern coastal Kenya. In a birth cohort study, we followed infants to age 18 mo and assessed whether anemia or iron deficiency at time of vaccination predicted vaccine response to three-valent oral polio, diphtheria-tetanus-whole cell pertussis-Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, ten-valent pneumococcal-conjugate vaccine and measles vaccine. Primary outcomes were anti-vaccine-IgG and seroconversion at age 24 wk and 18 mo. In a randomized trial cohort follow-up, children received a micronutrient powder (MNP) with 5 mg iron daily or a MNP without iron for 4 mo starting at age 7.5 mo and received measles vaccine at 9 and 18 mo; primary outcomes were anti-measles IgG, seroconversion and avidity at age 11.5 mo and 4.5 y. Findings: In the birth cohort study, 573 infants were enrolled and 303 completed the study. Controlling for sex, birthweight, anthropometric indices and maternal antibodies, hemoglobin at time of vaccination was the strongest positive predictor of: (A) anti-diphtheria and anti-pertussis-IgG at 24 wk (p = 0.0071, p = 0.0339) and 18 mo (p = 0.0182, p = 0.0360); (B) anti-pertussis filamentous hemagglutinin-IgG at 24 wk (p = 0.0423); and (C) anti-pneumococcus 19 IgG at 18 mo (p = 0.0129). Anemia and serum transferrin receptor at time of vaccination were the strongest predictors of seroconversion against diphtheria (p = 0.0484, p = 0.0439) and pneumococcus 19 at 18 mo (p = 0.0199, p = 0.0327). In the randomized trial, 155 infants were recruited, 127 and 88 were assessed at age 11.5 mo and 4.5 y. Compared to infants that did not receive iron, those who received iron at time of vaccination had higher anti-measles-IgG (p = 0.0415), seroconversion (p = 0.0531) and IgG avidity (p = 0.0425) at 11.5 mo. Interpretation: In Kenyan infants, anemia and iron deficiency at time of vaccination predict decreased response to diphtheria, pertussis and pneumococcal vaccines. Primary response to measles vaccine may be increased by iron supplementation at time of vaccination. These findings argue that correction of iron deficiency during early infancy may improve vaccine response.
Kenya, anemia, infancy, iron, iron deficiency, seroconversion, vaccine response