CDC study: Newborns' protection boosted with mother's COVID-19 vaccination

A new CDC study on pregnant women who received the COVID-19 vaccine showed they passed along to their newborns up to 60% better protection from the coronavirus, officials said.

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The study by the Centers for Disease Control, done at 20 hospitals in 17 states since July 2021, found babies six months and younger were less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 if the mother received the vaccine or booster shots during pregnancy.

There were significantly higher antibodies in mothers who received vaccines later in their pregnancy, officials said. But the study did not change CDC guidance and officials said it is too soon whether to recommend additional boosters for pregnant mothers.

The CDC has recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or may be trying to get pregnant.

“This new study adds to growing evidence on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines during pregnancy,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, the CDC’s chief of infant outcomes monitoring research and prevention in a CDC teleconference. “The data clearly shows the vaccine during pregnancy reduces infection of severe illness and death for people who are pregnant.”

Mirroring the effects of the flu vaccine and vaccine for whooping cough, officials said the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for infants for their first six months of life. The study found antibodies passed through the umbilical cord and placenta, Meaney Delman said.

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“Until this study, we did not have data to demonstrate whether these antibodies might provide protection for the baby from COVID-19,” she said. “The data is real world evidence that a COVID vaccine during pregnancy might protect infants from hospitalization.”

Local health officials praised the CDC guidance and hoped that it would lead to further confidence in the vaccination of pregnant women.

Dr. Michael Nimaroff, senior vice president of OB/GYN at Northwell Health, said the vaccines are safe and vital to prevent infection and severe illness for mothers and their unborn babies.

“I think it’s a very reassuring and supports what we all believed to be true that vaccinations also protects the baby,” Nimaroff said. “There’s still some hesitancy in our community and we strongly recommend vaccination for pregnant patients. We certainly know symptomatic infection in pregnancy can lead to serious risks.

Some unvaccinated mothers who have contracted COVID-19 have experienced serious illness including premature labor and stillbirth loss of babies, CDC and health officials said.

Of 176 babies in the study that were hospitalized with COVID-19, 84% or 148 of them were born to unvaccinated mothers and of the 43 infants admitted to the ICU, 88% were from unvaccinated mothers. One baby died after being born to an unvaccinated mother.

Forty percent of infants born to mothers vaccinated during pregnancy did develop the virus but CDC officials said they do not know how it was contracted.

They noted perinatal transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby is “very rare.”

Like other vaccines, antibodies triggered by the COVID-19 vaccine do not transfer from mothers to their babies until 36 weeks of pregnancy, Stony Brook University Dr. Sharon Nachman, professor of Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine.

She said vaccines and boosters have become more accepted on Long Island and around the world as more of the population and pregnant woman have shown that vaccines can be tolerated safely.

“We have a huge number of pregnant women who are vaccinated and data on their outcome. There was no adverse affect on the pregnancy and their babies,” Nachman said.

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