It’s the first real-world evidence demonstrating that maternal vaccination generates coronavirus antibodies that could be passed on and become protective to the baby. This conclusion was previously theorized by scientists after antibodies were found in umbilical cords, which act as a conduit for nutrients and waste between the mother and the baby.
“The bottom line is that maternal vaccination is a really important way to help protect these young infants,” said Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s infant-outcome monitoring, research and prevention branch. The news “is highly welcome, particularly in the backdrop of the recent increase in hospitalizations among very young children.”
The study included data on 379 infants at 20 pediatric hospitals in 17 states between July and January, including 176 who had covid-19.
The CDC has for months recommended vaccination for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant, noting that pregnancy increases the risk of severe problems from the virus. Studies have found a higher risk of hospitalization, intensive-care admission and death compared with the nonpregnant population.
Research into other diseases, such as whooping cough and the flu, has found that immunization in pregnancy can provide protection to infants in the first six months of life. According to Meaney-Delman, this period is especially crucial for infants because they could develop serious illnesses but are not eligible to be vaccinated.
But despite repeated calls from health experts, pregnant people lag behind other demographic groups in getting vaccinated. Only a little more than 42 percent of pregnant people ages 18 to 49 were fully vaccinated as of Jan. 15, according to CDC data.
Pregnancy and parenting apps and discussion forums have become a hot spot for vaccine misinformation. Fearmongering and widespread falsehoods linking infertility and pregnancy complications to coronavirus vaccines have deterred many from getting the shots.
While further research on the best timing is needed, Meaney-Delman said that, given the risks covid-19 poses, “as soon as a pregnant woman is willing to be vaccinated, we recommend that she go ahead and do so.”