Passively acquired maternal antibodies in infants may inhibit active immune responses to vaccines. Whether maternal antibody against hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) in infants may influence the long-term immunogenicity of hepatitis B vaccine remains unknown.
Totally 338 pairs of mothers and children were enrolled. All infants were routinely vaccinated against hepatitis B based on 0-, 1- and 6-month schedule. We characterized the transplacental transfer of maternal anti-HBs, and compared anti-HBs response in children of mothers with or without anti-HBs. In a prospective observation, all 63 anti-HBs positive mothers transferred anti-HBs to their infants; 84.1% of the infants had higher anti-HBs concentrations than their mothers. One and half years after vaccination with three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, the positive rate and geometric mean concentration (GMC) of anti-HBs in 32 infants with maternal anti-HBs were comparable with those in 32 infants without maternal antibody (90.6% vs 87.5%, P = 0.688, and 74.5 vs 73.5 mIU/ml, P = 0.742, respectively). In a retrospective analysis, five and half years after vaccination with three doses vaccine, the positive rates of anti-HBs in 88 children of mothers with anti-HBs ≥1000 mIU/ml, 94 children of mothers with anti-HBs 10–999 mIU/ml, and 61 children of mothers with anti-HBs <10 mIU/ml were 72.7%, 69.2%, and 63.9% (P = 0.521), respectively; anti-HBs GMC in these three groups were 38.9, 43.9, and 31.7 mIU/ml (P = 0.726), respectively.
The data demonstrate that maternal anti-HBs in infants, even at high concentrations, does not inhibit the long-term immunogenicity of hepatitis B vaccine. Thus, current hepatitis B vaccination schedule for infants will be still effective in the future when most infants are positive for maternal anti-HBs due to the massive vaccination against hepatitis B.