According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, receiving the COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy can protect unborn children from the virus throughout their most vulnerable early years of life.
Over the past season, maternal vaccination was 54% effective in preventing COVID-19 hospitalization in infants under 3 months of age.
The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the CDC released the results of the Overcoming COVID-19 Network on Thursday. They used information on admissions from 26 pediatric hospitals across the US up until May 2023.
When effectiveness was evaluated in infants 3 to 5 months old, it fell to 35%.
The COVID vaccine has not yet been licensed in the United States for infants younger than six months old. Thus, according to the study’s authors, “these findings suggest that maternal immunization during pregnancy could help prevent COVID-19-related hospitalization in infants too young to be immunized.”
Protecting both the mother and the child
The results are by no means the first to demonstrate the advantages of vaccination during pregnancy.
Results from the Overcoming COVID-19 Network from earlier in the pandemic showed that kids born to mothers who delayed their vaccinations later in pregnancy had vaccine effectiveness up to 80%.
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In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended pregnant parents who qualify to get immunized. The vaccines are safe and can reduce the risk of serious disease for expectant parents, according to a number of studies, they argue.
Severe COVID-19 risk can increase during pregnancy. Although the CDC states that the “overall risks are low,” contracting the virus while pregnant can raise the risk of problems, including stillbirth.
The CDC’s latest findings are timely because COVID-19 hospitalization rates for babies now place them among the age groups with the worst rates.
Since mid-July, hospitalization rates have risen across the board for all age categories. According to Dr. Fiona Havers of the CDC, hospitalization rates are still higher in older people and infants under six months of age. She made this statement earlier this month to a group of the agency’s outside vaccination specialists.
Data from the agency’s COVID-NET system, which Havers was presenting, revealed that hospitalization rates for infants with COVID-19 remained higher than they were for influenza.
The majority of young children hospitalized with COVID-19 disease, according to her, have no underlying medical issues.
How does COVID-19 maternal immunization work?
Numerous studies have been conducted on the protection that maternal immunization can provide for infants.
It has long been advised that expectant mothers get vaccinations to protect their unborn children from various illnesses including pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, so they can pass on antibodies to their unborn child during pregnancy.
Additionally, a new RSV vaccine is now advised for use this autumn during pregnancy as a choice to safeguard unborn children.
According to study funded by the National Institutes of Health, pregnant women who received the COVID-19 vaccine produced anti-virus antibodies that “effectively crossed the placenta and were also found in the cord blood.”
Although a recent study questioned whether babies might absorb the antibodies, other scientists have also speculated that defense could possibly travel through breast milk to infants.
The immunizations nevertheless seemed to work to pass antibodies to the fetus during pregnancy, according to those researchers.
Notably, five months after delivery, the majority of children born to mothers who got the primary SARS-CoV-2 vaccine during pregnancy still exhibited significant transplacental antibodies, according to their findings.