AUG 16, 2023 3:00 PM PDT

COVID-19 Vaccination is Beneficial to Pregnant Women and Newborns

The COVID-19 pandemic demanded an efficacious vaccine to combat the disease and stop the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 vaccine was quickly developed, and booster shots were generated to maintain durable immunity and prevent the spread of another pandemic. However, due to its rapid generation and quick administration to the world population, the long-term effect of the vaccine is unclear. More specifically, the effects of the vaccine in different populations are unknown. Different studies are being published noting the effect the COVID-19 vaccine has on different groups of people. A recent study from the Multisite Observational Maternal and Infant Study for COVID-19 (MOMI-VAX), funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released findings on the effect of COVID-19 vaccine on pregnant women and newborns.

The MOMI-VAX study began in June 2021 when COVID-19 vaccination data on pregnant women was limited. Researchers wanted to learn about the effect of these vaccinations developed by Pfizer and Moderna, since these two companies generated the majority of vaccines for the United States (US) population. The effect of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant women is important because pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19 than others and puts them at a greater risk of early labor. Researchers also wanted to know if the antibodies generated in response to the vaccine in the mother, would transfer to the fetus during pregnancy. This would provide newborns with a few months of protection from the disease after birth.

The study, published in Vaccine, measured COVID-19 antibody levels in pregnant women that received the vaccination and booster shots. These levels were tested in the cord blood after the mother gave birth. The MOMI-Vax study followed and measured antibody levels in 500 pregnant volunteers and their babies. This was done at nine different study sites across the nation. The published study in this article included only 240 participants. Of those 240 pregnant women, 167 received two-dose primary series of vaccination, and 73 received a booster. For pregnant women at the time, only one booster dose was recommended since it was unclear how the vaccine affected the baby. Researchers took blood samples before and after vaccination, and after the women gave birth.

The researchers demonstrated that pregnant women that received COVID-19 vaccinations generated antibodies against COVID-19. Additionally, these antibodies were effectively transferred to the fetus through the placenta and found in the cord blood of the patient. This is a major benefit to the newborn, because it ensures they are protected against COVID-19 in the first few months of life, where they are most vulnerable to disease, and are too young to receive any vaccinations. Mothers who had booster shots had increased antibody levels than those who were not boosted, indicating that the boosted mothers gave more antibodies to their newborns providing better protection after birth.

The MOMI-VAX study is necessary to determine COVID-19 effects on pregnant women and newborns. This study clearly demonstrates that the COVID-19 vaccination and subsequent booster doses are healthy for both the mother and child. Based on this article, it is recommended pregnant women receive all their vaccinations including those for COVID-19 so that their immune systems build antibodies for the disease to combat it, but also to pass those antibodies to their children for protection in the coming months after birth.

Study, Vaccine, MOMI-VAX, NIAID

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Greetings! I am a predoctoral trainee in the Department of Immunology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. I am passionate about tumor immunology, and hope to one day become an independent principal investigator.
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