Studies from low-income countries have suggested that diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine provided after Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination may have a negative effect on female survival. The authors examined the effect of DTP in a cohort of low birthweight (LBW) infants.
2320 LBW newborns were visited at 2, 6 and 12 months of age to assess nutritional and vaccination status. The authors examined survival until the 6-month visit for children who were DTP vaccinated and DTP unvaccinated at the 2-month visit.
Two-thirds of the children had received DTP at 2 months and 50 deaths occurred between the 2-month and 6-month visits. DTP vaccinated children had a better anthropometric status for all indices than DTP unvaccinated children. Small mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) was the strongest predictor of mortality. The death rate ratio (DRR) for DTP vaccinated versus DTP unvaccinated children differed significantly for girls (DRR 2.45; 95% CI 0.93 to 6.45) and boys (DRR 0.53; 95% CI 0.23 to 1.20) (p=0.018, homogeneity test). Adjusting for MUAC, the overall effect for DTP vaccinated children was 2.62 (95% CI 1.34 to 5.09); DRR was 5.68 (95% CI 1.83 to 17.7) for girls and 1.29 (95% CI 0.56 to 2.97) for boys (p=0.023, homogeneity test). While anthropometric indices were a strong predictor of mortality among boys, there was little or no association for girls.
Surprisingly, even though the children with the best nutritional status were vaccinated early, early DTP vaccination was associated with increased mortality for girls.