Need for developing case definitions and guidelines for data collection, analysis, and presentation for low birth weight as an adverse event following maternal immunization:
The birth weight of an infant is the first weight recorded after birth, ideally measured within the first hours after birth, before significant postnatal weight loss has occurred. Low birth weight (LBW) is defined as a birth weight of less than 2500 g (up to and including 2499 g), as per the World Health Organization (WHO) . This definition of LBW has been in existence for many decades. In 1976, the 29th World Health Assembly agreed on the currently used definition. Prior to this, the definition of LBW was ‘2500 g or less’. Low birth weight is further categorized into very low birth weight (VLBW, <1500 g) and extremely low birth weight (ELBW, <1000 g) . Low birth weight is a result of preterm birth (PTB, short gestation <37 completed weeks), intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR, also known as fetal growth restriction), or both.
The term low birth weight refers to an absolute weight of <2500 g regardless of gestational age. Small for gestational age (SGA) refers to newborns whose birth weight is less than the 10th percentile for gestational age. This report will focus specifically on birth weight <2500 g. Further details related to case definitions for PTB , IUGR and SGA are included in separate GAIA reports. Globally, it is estimated that 15–20% of all births, or >20 million newborns annually, are low birth weight infants. Low- and middle-income countries account for a disproportionate burden of LBW; over 95% of the world’s LBW infants are born in LMICs. There are marked global and regional variations in LBW rates. An estimated 6% of infants are born LBW in East Asia and the Pacific, 13% in Sub-Saharan Africa, and up to 28% in South Asia . Up to half of all LBW infants are born in south Asia . High-income regions report lower LBW rates, including 6.9% from UK . Of concern is the estimated increase in LBW rates in certain middle-income countries such as Oman, where the LBW rate went from 4% in 1980 to 8.1% in 2000 .
One of the major challenges in monitoring the incidence of LBW is that more than half of infants in the LMICs are not weighed . Population-based survey data often rely on modeled estimates, with statistical methods to adjust for underreporting and misreporting of birth weight. In the context of vaccine safety monitoring, accurate ascertainment of birth weight in LMICs will continue to require attention and investment to improve accuracy and reporting of this important health indicator.
1.1.1. Why are we concerned about low birth weight?
Low birth weight is a valuable public health indicator of maternal health, nutrition, healthcare delivery, and poverty. Neonates with low birth weight have a >20 times greater risk of dying than neonates with birth weight of >2500 g , . Additionally, low birth weight is associated with long-term neurologic disability, impaired language development , impaired academic achievement, and increased risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Preterm infants carry additional risk due to immaturity of multiple organ systems, including intracranial hemorrhage, respiratory distress, sepsis, blindness, and gastrointestinal disorders. Preterm birth is the leading cause of all under-5 child mortality worldwide .
In addition, economic studies in low-income settings have demonstrated that reducing the burden of low birth weight would have important cost savings both to the health system and to households .