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CDC study: Getting vaxxed while pregnant protects baby from COVID-19

By: - February 22, 2022 3:28 pm

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Updated, 8:50 p.m., 2/22/22, with comment from DHHS

New research has found that pregnant people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are sharing those antibodies with their unborn child, potentially protecting the baby from contracting the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved for children under the age of 5, the study suggests that receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine while pregnant may be the only currently available way to protect young children against the virus.

Moderna COVID-19 | Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury

The Johnson&Johnson vaccine was not included in the study, nor were booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who are pregnant or recently pregnant are also more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine or any other vaccine hinders fertility.

A previous study concluded that, for babies born from a vaccinated parent, 57% of those infants retained detectable antibody levels six months after birth.

The new CDC study now shows that those antibodies can actively fight against the virus.

“MDHHS [Michigan Department of Health and Human Services] urges all Michiganders ages 5 and older to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and to be boosted if they are eligible, including pregnant women. The vaccine is our best defense against the virus,” MDHHS Lynn Sutfin said in an email Tuesday.*

Receiving a vaccine after 21 weeks of pregnancy translated to the strongest level of protection for a baby, the study found, meaning that the transfer of antibodies from pregnant parent to child peaks during the second and third trimesters.

The antibodies are thought to be transferred from the placenta to the baby.

“Dating back to when the COVID-19 vaccines were first released, physicians like me have been encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated as a means to protect themselves and their babies,” said Dr. Farhan Bhatti, a family physician in Lansing and the Michigan lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care.

“This new data confirms what we’ve been saying all along and is exceptionally good news for pregnant women who want to protect themselves and their babies from COVID-19. This is particularly important as we continue to wait for vaccines for kids under the age of 5 to be approved,” Bhatti continued.

Bhatti noted that “contrary to some narratives, children and babies can get seriously ill from COVID-19.

“I personally have taken care of children in the hospital who were sick due to COVID-19, including newborns whose moms were sick with COVID-19 at the time of delivery,” he said. “As a physician and a soon-to-be father myself, I wholeheartedly encourage pregnant women to take the safe, effective vaccine to protect themselves and their babies alike.”


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.