New data shows COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy benefits newborns

"It just gives us another reason to encourage moms to vaccinate during pregnancy," say Mayo doctors.

A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study suggests getting vaccinated for COVID-19 during pregnancy not only protects the mother but also protects the baby after birth.

The study looked at two groups of infants 6 months and younger who had been admitted to the hospital. One group was admitted for COVID-19 infection. The second was admitted for various other reasons.

Researchers then looked to find out if vaccinated mothers provided some protection after delivery for the infants.

The data shows that being vaccinated, even before pregnancy, can prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations among infants 6 months and younger.

“When the mom is vaccinated, ” explains Mayo Clinic OB-GYN Dr. Myra Wick. “She produces antibodies, and these antibodies can be transferred through the cord blood to the baby and provide what we call ‘passive immunization.’ The antibodies transferred from the mom protect the infant against COVID infection.”

This tracks with past studies of vaccinations prior to COVID, like with the tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis booster, or Tdap.

“We vaccinate all women who are pregnant with Tdap, regardless of when they were vaccinated previously,” says Dr. Wick. “Mom produces an increased number of antibodies in response to the vaccination. These are transferred to the fetus and provide protection against pertussis (whooping cough).”

Mayo is a part of the V-Safe Program, helping the CDC track pregnant women receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 185,000 women enrolled in the program nationwide. So far, researchers say the data they’ve received through the program shows no increase in adverse events or effects in women who have been vaccinated, and according to Wick, there are no issues with miscarriage associated with the vaccine.

“It just gives us another reason to encourage moms to vaccinate during pregnancy. We know that moms who are pregnant and get COVID-19 are at increased risk for needing hospitalization, ICU care, ventilation, even death. And that data has been pretty well established. Those are all reasons to be vaccinated, and now knowing that there could be protection for the baby, as well, is very exciting. And seeing that protection up to six months ― that’s wonderful.”

COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is recommended to prevent severe illness and death in women who are pregnant. Infants are also at risk for COVID-19 associated complications, including respiratory failure and other life-threatening complications.