Background: Neonatal vitamin A supplementation (NVAS) is an intervention hypothesized to reduce infant morbidity and mortality. The objective of this study was to assess the efficacy of neonatal vitamin A supplementation in reducing infant morbidity and mortality and assess potential sources of heterogeneity of the effect of NVAS.

Methods: We completed an individually randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in Tanzania. Infants were randomized within 3 days of birth to a single dose of vitamin A (50 000 IU) or placebo. We assessed infants at 1 and 3 days after supplementation, as well as 1, 3, 6 and 12 months after supplementation. We included all live births in the analysis and used relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) to assess the risks of mortality and hospitalization by 12 months. We used general estimating equations to assess the incidence of morbidities during infancy.

Results: A total of 31 999 infants were enrolled in the study between August 2010 and March 2013. At 12 months, vitamin A did not reduce all-cause infant mortality (RR 1.04; 95% CI 0.92-1.16), nor affect hospitalization (RR 1.09; 95% CI 0.97-1.22) or all-cause morbidity (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.96-1.05). Postpartum maternal vitamin A supplementation modified the effect of neonatal vitamin A supplementation on mortality at 12 months (P-value, test for interaction = 0.04). Among infants born to women who received a mega-dose of vitamin A after delivery, NVAS appeared to increase the risk of death (RR 1.12; 95% CI 0.98-1.29), whereas the risk of death among infants born to women who did not receive a mega-dose was reduced (RR 0.86; 95% CI 0.70-1.06). We noted no modification of the effect of NVAS by infant gender, birthweight or maternal HIV status.

Conclusion: NVAS did not affect the risk of death or incidence of common childhood morbidities. However, this study sheds light on potential sources of heterogeneity of the effect of neonatal vitamin A supplementation which should be further examined in a pooled analysis of all NVAS trials.

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