CDC Study: Mother’s COVID Vaccination May Protect Baby

A recent study bolsters mounting evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are not only safe for pregnant women but offer protection to their unborn children.

Health experts say COVID-19 vaccination is not only safe in pregnancy, it appears to protect the baby from serious COVID after birth. (Shutterstock image)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released the findings of a six-month study that concluded there is a 61 percent effectiveness against COVID for newborns whose mothers received the two-dose RNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy.

Researchers believe the infants benefitted from the vaccine, which was transmitted through the mothers’ placenta during gestation.

The CDC study comes on the heels of research from other organizations and institutions- including the World Health Organization – evincing the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women.

Despite the findings, “a large proportion of pregnant people remain unvaccinated against COVID-19,” according to an email response to the Source from the CDC. And vaccine hesitancy among those who are pregnant is highest in the Black community.

As of Feb. 12, 68 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated against the disease, according to the response. But among non-Hispanic Blacks who were pregnant, the percentage was only 54 percent.

Medical experts have been touting the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women for many months, trying to counter vaccine hesitancy.

In a Q and A published on its website in mid-February, the WHO says several countries have been tracking COVID-related health outcomes in pregnant women. In the U.S., more than 198,00 were monitored, and it was determined that those who were vaccinated had no increased risk of poor outcomes for their pregnancy. The rates of preterm birth and for stillbirths were the same for those vaccinated as for the overall population of pregnant women.

Data from the monitoring, the experience with other vaccine-controlled illnesses, and research on animals all point up the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women, the WHO says. Further, clinical trials have shown it does not alter fertility rates.

“The safety picture for vaccinating pregnant women continues to look good,” according to the CDC, which operates various ongoing monitoring programs. After vaccination, pregnant women have reported side effects that are no different from those in the general population. Not everyone notices side effects, but the most common are tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.

The CDC study, released earlier this month, goes beyond the safety of the vaccine and to its efficacy.

Researchers collected data from 20 different pediatric hospitals across 17 states, for the time period of July 1, 2021, to Jan. 17, 2022. The timeframe included COVID-19 surges caused by the Delta variant and by the Omicron variant.

A total of 483 infants under the age of six months entered those 17 hospitals during those months, with various conditions. Researchers excluded 104 of them from the study for various reasons.

(The CDC publishes the total number of COVID cases nationwide for various age groups, but it does not provide a total for those under six months. Those numbers are included in the age group of persons up to age four.)

Of the 379 babies in the study group, 176 were hospitalized with COVID-19 as the primary reason for admission or had clinical symptoms consistent with acute COVID-19. The other 203 infants served as the control group.

The case study group and the control group had similar rates of premature birth (23 percent and 21 percent, respectively) and of underlying conditions (20 percent and 23 percent, respectively), meaning those factors appeared not to be affected by vaccine status.

However, a mother’s vaccination status was significant for the case study group. The most severe cases of COVID-19 manifested primarily in infants whose mothers were not vaccinated. Of the 176 case infants, 43 were treated in the Intensive Care Unit, and of those in the ICU, 88 percent were born to women who were not vaccinated.

It was not clear whether the exact timing of vaccination made a difference in its efficacy.

“Our study was too small to look at the trimester of vaccination or boosters,” an author of the study, Samantha Olson, said in the email response.

“CDC will continue to follow people vaccinated during all trimesters of pregnancy to better understand effects on pregnancy and babies,” the statement read.