Photo by Camylla Battani
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, many believed that the vaccine to counter the deadly virus would take time to develop. However, the gravity of the situation forced companies to develop a solution quickly. Within a year, millions were vaccinated, lifting the edge off people. Although the danger has decreased to a degree, the pandemic continues, and scientists continue to conduct research. Among their findings is the vaccine’s effect on mothers who were pregnant during their shot.
A small study suggests that six-month-old babies born to mothers who received their COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy are more likely to have antibodies against the virus in their blood than babies born to unvaccinated mothers who turned out positive while pregnant.
On Monday, researchers reported in JAMA on 28 six-month-old infants born to women who were vaccinated twice with an MRNA vaccine at 20 to 32 weeks gestation, when the transfer of maternal antibodies to the bodies through the placenta is at its highest, and twelve babies of that age whose mothers were infected during the same time frame. In addition, the researchers found detectable levels of immunoglobulin G or IgG, the most common antibody in the blood, in more than half of babies born to vaccinated mothers but in only 8% of the babies of infected, unvaccinated mothers.
It is unclear how high antibody levels must be to protect against infection, but antibodies are not the only defense mechanism. “Many interested parties from parents to pediatricians want to know how long maternal antibodies persist in infants after vaccination, and now we can provide some answers,” said Dr. Andrea Edlow of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We hope these findings will provide further incentive for pregnant people to get vaccinated.”
New data also suggests that contracting COVID-19 is linked with a higher risk for obstetric complications. For example, among 14,104 women giving birth before the vaccines, the 586 who had moderate or severe COVID-19 during delivery or within six weeks were more likely to lead to cesarean deliveries, deliver pre-term, die around the time of birth, or experience serious illness from high blood pressure, bleeding, or infections apart from SARS-CoV-2.
The events have a combined rate of 9.2% in uninfected women versus 26.1% in women with recent, moderate, or severe COVID-19. After accounting for other risk factors, the odds of experiencing complications more than double in the moderate/severe COVID-19 group. In addition, women in the group were more likely to lose the pregnancy or have an infant die during the newborn period. Researchers also stated that mild or asymptomatic infection was not associated with increased complications.
However, the data was collected before the two new COVID-19 variants, Delta and Omicron, appeared, and none of the women had been vaccinated. Therefore, the results cannot predict what might happen under the conditions.
The research was funded by Dr. Diana Bianchi of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “(The research) underscores the need for women of childbearing age and pregnant individuals to be vaccinated and to take other precautions,” said the doctor.