Vaccination during pregnancy reduces baby’s risk of COVID-19, study says

COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy provides strong protection for both mother and baby, new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest.

Babies born to mothers who received two mRNA vaccine doses during pregnancy were 61% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 in their first six months of life, compared with babies born to women who were not vaccinated during pregnancy , according to the new CDC. report. The injections were effective when mothers-to-be were vaccinated, but provided even more protection when given 21 weeks into the pregnancy or later.

The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant people because they are at high risk for complications if they become infected during pregnancy. Vaccination is safe and effective for mother and baby, the agency says. In November, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommended boosters for all eligible pregnant people.
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The new study, published Feb. 15 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, provides the first real evidence that vaccination during pregnancy can also help protect infants from the virus. Disease-fighting antibodies generated by vaccination appear to be passed from mother to baby in utero, protecting against serious illness and hospitalization, the study authors write.

“Today’s news is very welcome, especially against the background of the recent increase in hospitalizations among very young children,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s Division of Research and Prevention of Infant Outcomes Research and Prevention, during a news conference. “Unfortunately, vaccination of infants under six months of age is not on the horizon, highlighting why vaccination during pregnancy is so important.”

The CDC’s study was quite small; researchers examined data from nearly 400 infants under 6 months of age who were hospitalized in 17 states from July 2021 to January 2022. About half of those babies were hospitalized with COVID-19. The other babies were hospitalized for other reasons and served as a control group. The median age in both groups was two months. About 20% of the babies had at least one underlying medical condition and about 20% were born prematurely.

Of the babies hospitalized for COVID-19, 84% were born to mothers who were not vaccinated during pregnancy, the CDC found.

Babies born to mothers who were vaccinated during pregnancy were 61% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than babies born to unvaccinated mothers. The timing of the vaccination also seemed to matter. Babies born to mothers vaccinated at least 21 weeks before their pregnancy were 80% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those born to unvaccinated mothers; that number dropped to 32% for babies born to mothers who received their injections in the first 20 weeks.

Nevertheless, the CDC has not recommended vaccination at any specific point in pregnancy. While getting vaccinated later in a pregnancy can provide more protection for the baby, pregnant people are prone to serious illness and pregnancy complications if they become infected, which also makes it important to be protected as early as possible, Meaney-Delman said at the news conference.

Vaccination rates among pregnant people have lagged behind that of the general US population. That’s likely a holdover from the early days of vaccine rollouts, when little was known about the effects of the shots on pregnant people and fetuses. Vaccination rates have risen in recent months, following the release of strong data on the safety and efficacy of the injections, but “we still have a lot of work to do,” Meaney-Delman said.

The new data may help convince expectant mothers. Since children under the age of five are not eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the report offers reassuring data to new and expectant parents during an otherwise frustrating time.

A committee of experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was scheduled to meet on Feb. 15 to discuss extending Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine authorization to children aged 6 months to 4 years, but that meeting was postponed as Pfizer collects more data. of the ongoing clinical trial. That means babies and toddlers may not be vaccinated in the coming months.

However, the new data shows that parents-to-be have one way to protect their newborns and themselves: get vaccinated during pregnancy.

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