Researchers have announced the results of a new study from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that might suggest that pregnant women who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can pass on antibodies to their newborn babies.
The conclusion of the study found that:
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines generated robust humoral immunity in pregnant and lactating women, with immunogenicity and reactogenicity similar to that observed in non-pregnant women. Vaccine-induced immune responses were significantly greater than the response to natural infection. Immune transfer to neonates occurred via placenta and breastmilk.
Dr. Andrea Edlow is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a co-author in the study.
“It does seem like great news,” Edlow told NBC’s “TODAY” show. “This study is one piece of the puzzle that’s essential to try to give pregnant and lactating women evidence-based counseling around the vaccine.”
Dr. Iffath Hoskins is an OB-GYN at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and president-elect of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who said that the findings are “very much reassuring.” She noted that the immune system of a pregnant woman is subdued so that her body doesn’t reject a fetus, so people were unsure about how well a vaccine would work for a pregnant woman.
“What this study is showing us is that the mother does mount a robust response,” said Hoskins, although she was not involved in the most recent research. “Her body does wake up … making antibodies to the prod that just happened, which is the coronavirus vaccine.”
Edlow added that the study was not done in order to get answers on how safe the vaccine is overall.
The study was designed with “131 reproductive-age vaccine recipients (84 pregnant, 31 lactating, and 16 non-pregnant)” at two different academic medical centers. The research showed that pregnant and lactating women “elicited comparable vaccine-induced humoral immune responses” to non-pregnant persons. It also found that pregnant and lactating women “generated higher antibody titers than those observed following SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy.”
While there is not a lot of information regarding long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines and how they affect the general public, or pregnant people specifically, the experts told NBC News that COVID-19 is a known risk.
“There’s a whole big bucket of ‘We don’t know,’” Hoskins said. “In my personal opinion, there’s a bigger bucket of ‘We do know that Covid sucks and it’s really bad for everybody, including a pregnant woman.’”
“We can certainly tell them with complete surety that getting Covid in pregnancy is potentially very dangerous,” Edlow said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people … Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19.”
There have not yet been long-term widespread studies on the safety of pregnant women receiving COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC notes that “there are currently limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people,” and explains, “Clinical trials that look at the safety and how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in pregnant people are underway or planned. Vaccine manufacturers are also monitoring data from people in the clinical trials who received vaccine and became pregnant. Studies in animals receiving a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy found no safety concerns.”
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