Babies with vaccinated moms are less likely to be hospitalized with covid – Grid News

ADVERTISEMENT

Babies with vaccinated moms are less likely to be hospitalized with covid

Vaccinating pregnant people creates a broad shield of protection that helps keep their babies safe for months after birth.

Infants born to moms who received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during their pregnancy were 61 percent less likely to be hospitalized with covid in their first six months of life than babies whose moms weren’t vaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers reported Tuesday.

While it’s been clear for months that vaccines protect pregnant people and fetuses from covid, this is the first real-world data showing vaccination during pregnancy protects infants even after they’re born.

That’s welcome news at a time when covid hospitalization rates have reached new peaks, said Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s Infant Outcomes Monitoring Research and Prevention Branch, at a news briefing on Tuesday. “The bottom line is that maternal vaccination is a really important way to help protect these young infants,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

But many expectant parents aren’t taking advantage of the benefits covid shots confer. As Grid has reported, that’s in part because the agency didn’t officially recommend the shots to pregnant people until nine months after they became available to adults. Vaccination among pregnant people remains low, with just 4 in 10 immunized.

Covid vaccines aren’t routinely available to children under 5, and infants under 6 months are barred from clinical trials now taking place in older babies and toddlers. To determine whether vaccinating pregnant people conferred any protection on their children after birth, CDC scientists investigated sick infants treated at 20 pediatric hospitals from July 2021 through last month.

Their sample ultimately included 379 babies age 6 months or younger — 176 with covid and 203 without. The scientists also examined the vaccination history of the babies’ mothers. Eighty-four percent of the babies with covid were born to unvaccinated mothers, the researchers found. Of the 43 infants with covid who needed ICU treatment, 88 percent had unvaccinated moms. The only death occurred in a baby whose mother was unvaccinated.

The babies’ apparent protection against severe covid likely came from antibodies passed down from their vaccinated mothers, the researchers say, either through the placenta during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. The data also suggests that babies born to mothers who were vaccinated later in pregnancy were more protected from severe disease than mothers vaccinated early on, though that finding is preliminary.

One major reason that scientists are only learning now about the full impact of vaccinating pregnant people is that they were not included in the initial clinical trials vaccine-makers conducted in 2020. That has left researchers playing catch-up, in large part by analyzing real-world data of the sort used in the latest study.

ADVERTISEMENT

At this point, the CDC is not updating their guidance to recommend waiting until later in pregnancy to get vaccinated, Meaney-Delman said. Pregnant people are at especially high risk from covid, and infection doubles the risk of stillbirth, making vaccination at any point crucial.

But vaccine hesitancy remains higher for people who are pregnant and those looking to become so. Misinformation swirling around purported side effects of covid vaccines coupled with a history of medical abuse among certain groups has contributed to this vaccination gap, as Grid reported last month. Whether the new data showing that these vaccines protect infants too will reduce hesitancy around the shots will close that gap will become clearer in the coming months.

  • Jonathan Lambert
    Jonathan Lambert

    Public Health Reporter

    Jonathan Lambert is a public health reporter for Grid focused on how science, policy and the environment shape our collective well-being.