New data from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy offers strong protection for mother and baby.
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 to babies born to women who were not vaccinated during pregnancy, according to the CDC’s new report.
Since pregnant women have a high chance of developing complications if infected while they’re pregnant, the CDC recommends COVID-19 immunization. According to the agency, vaccinations are safe for both mother and child. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended boosters in November for pregnant women who are eligible.
The new study, published Feb. 15 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, offers the first real-world evidence that vaccination during pregnancy can also help keep infants safe from the virus. Disease-fighting antibodies generated by vaccination seem to pass from mother to baby in utero and offer protection against severe disease and hospitalization, the study’s authors write.
“Today’s news is highly welcome, particularly in the backdrop of the recent increase in hospitalizations among very young children,” said Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s Infant Outcomes Monitoring Research and Prevention Branch, during a press briefing. “Unfortunately, vaccination of infants younger than six months old is not currently on the horizon, highlighting why vaccination during pregnancy is so important.”
The CDC’s study was fairly small; researchers examined data from almost 400 infants younger than 6 months who were hospitalized across 17 states from July 2021 to January 2022. Nearly 50% of the infants in that study were diagnosed with COVID-19. Other babies were treated for different reasons and used as controls. Both groups had a median age of two months. A quarter of all babies suffered from at least 1 underlying condition. About 20% were premature.
The CDC discovered that 84% of the COVID-19 infants were born to women who had not been vaccinated in pregnancy.
Children born to pregnant mothers who received COVID-19 vaccinations were 61% less likely than children born to parents without the vaccines. It also seemed that the timing of vaccination was important. Infants born to pregnant mothers who received their vaccines at least 21 days before their due date were less likely than babies born from mothers without vaccinated. The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations for children born to these mothers was 32% compared to those who were not vaccinated.
However, the CDC doesn’t recommend that pregnant women be vaccinated at any particular time. Even though a later period of vaccination may provide greater protection for the baby’s health, pregnant women can still get serious disease or complications from the infection if they are not protected, Meaney Delman stated during a press conference.
Pregnant women have a lower vaccination rate than the rest of the U.S. That’s likely a holdover from the early days of vaccine rollout, when little was known about how the shots affected pregnant people and fetuses. Vaccination rates have risen in recent months, following the release of strong data on the shots’ safety and efficacy, but “we still have a lot of work to do,” Meaney-Delman said
This new information may encourage expectant mothers to use the data. The report provides reassuring information to expectant and new parents, as children younger than five years old aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration expert committee was scheduled to meet on Feb. 15 to discuss expanding authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to children ages 6 months to 4 years, but that meeting was postponed while Pfizer gathers more data from its ongoing clinical trial. This means that toddlers and babies may not get vaccinated in the months ahead.
New data suggests that pregnant parents have an option to safeguard their baby and get vaccinated in the first trimester.