New research by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in pregnancy can also protect babies once they are born.
A study showed that infants whose mothers had received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines during pregnancy had a 61% reduced risk of being hospitalized for COVID within their first six months.
“Maternal vaccination is a very important way to help protect these infants,” Dr Dana Meaney Delman, chief, CDC’s Infant Outcome Monitoring, Research and Prevention Branch, stated. This is especially important as there’s no vaccine approved for babies younger than 6 months.
Researchers looked at data from 379 infants who were hospitalized for different reasons (including COVID) in 17 states between July 1, 2021 and Jan. 17. 84% of babies with COVID, or the majority, were born to mothers who hadn’t been vaccinated.
Most pregnant Americans are still not vaccinated , despite higher COVID risks.
Studies in the past have shown that pregnant women who were vaccinated against COVID can pass protective antibodies onto their unborn child. A small study published in JAMA last Wednesday found that 98% percent of infants whose mothers had been vaccinated against COVID during pregnancy still had detectable levels two months later. 57% of infants had detectable antibodies six months later.
The CDC has now released a new study that provides real-world evidence that these antibodies come from vaccinated moms. The pregnancy also provides protection for infants, according to Dr Andrea Edlow, a Harvard Medical School associate professor of obstetrics gynaecology and a physician in maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
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“I believe it’s an important study because it shows real world efficacy. We know that antibody titers can be a correlate for protection. But we also know that antibody levels are correlates with protection. They actually proved that the correlation was protective. Edlow states that this is an important message.
The CDC study did not include Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients. It also didn’t examine the effects of maternal booster shots upon infants. Dr Manish Patel, co-author of the study, said that the researchers will continue to examine the effects of booster shots in the future.
Patel believes that boosters should increase protection.
The new CDC study found that babies whose mothers were vaccinated within 21 weeks of their pregnancy had a greater protection against COVID hospitalization. This is in line with previous research, which has shown that antibodies are transferred from mother to baby at their highest during the second and third trimesters. Edlow, co-author of the JAMA study, said that this observation is consistent with previous research.
Edlow cautions that pregnant mothers should not delay getting vaccines to ensure their baby’s safety. Not only is there a higher chance of COVID occurring while pregnant, but also from other severe hypertensive complications such as preeclampsia or postpartum hemorhaging.
Edlow states, “I believe it’s a great second benefit that the maternal antibodies cross the placenta to protect the neonatal baby.” But that is not what COVID vaccination does during this stage of the pandemic. It is to protect the mother. “