Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy may lower infants' risk of infection, study finds

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A second or third dose of the vaccine during the later weeks of pregnancy may give infants even greater protection against the virus

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa explored how the COVID-19 vaccine may help pregnant women and their babies. According to their findings, infants are likely to have a lower risk of contracting the virus when their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy.

“Young infants are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 compared with older children, and there is no approved COVID-19 vaccine for this age group,” said researcher Dr. Deshayne Fell. “Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy helps protect young infants from potential SARS-CoV-2 infection when they are born.” 

Protecting infants’ health

The researchers analyzed data from over 21,600 infants born in Norway between September 2021, and February 2022. They compared data on infants whose mothers had received the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant to infants of women who didn’t get the vaccine. 

The findings showed that when women received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, it benefited their infants’ health. Nearly half of the women involved in the study received either a second or third dose of the vaccine during their last two trimesters, and their infants were less likely to contract the virus. 

During the surge of the Delta variant (which occurred before January 2022), the incidence rate for infants testing positive was 3.0 per 10,000 days for infants born to unvaccinated mothers and 1.2 per 10,000 for infants born to vaccinated mothers. The researchers also found that protection against the virus was strongest during this time as opposed to during the surge of the Omicron variant. 

The team hopes these findings highlight the protective health benefits for infants when women receive the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. 

“It is not unexpected that maternal COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy could reduce infant infection, as similar protective benefits against infant infection have been observed for pertussis and influenza vaccination during pregnancy in randomized clinical trials and observational studies,” Dr. Fell said. 

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