The COVID-19 vaccine given to pregnant women does no harm to their unborn babies, and can actually lower the risk of serious complications in newborns, a new study finds.
Babies born to women who received the COVID vaccine had half the death rate of those born to unvaccinated moms, according to findings published Feb. 6 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Newborns of vaccinated mothers also had lower rates of two brain-related complications, cerebral hemorrhages and brain oxygen deprivation, the researchers said.
“We found no increased risks,” said lead researcher Dr. Mikael Norman, a professor of pediatrics and neonatology at Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “If anything, infants to vaccinated women had lower risks for some severe outcomes.”
For the study, researchers tracked the health of nearly 200,000 newborns in Sweden and Norway — 98% of all babies born in those countries between June 2021 and January 2023.
About half (48%) of their moms had received one or more doses of an mRNA COVID vaccine.
The babies were studied for 15 different complications and conditions typically suffered by newborns. They were tracked for at least one month, or as long as they were kept in the hospital following birth.
Infants of vaccinated mothers had the same risk for most complications, and lower risk for the two brain-related conditions. They also had a dramatically lower death rate.
“The incidence of other bleedings, blood clots or inflammation in various organ systems did not differ between the groups,” Norman said
Researchers could not explain the vaccine’s benefit to newborns.
“A direct vaccine effect is unlikely,” Norman said. “Previous studies have shown that the vaccine does not cross the placenta and that it cannot be found in umbilical cord blood.”
Based on these results, expecting mothers should strongly consider getting the COVID vaccine, Norman said.
“COVID-19 is still present in society and is probably something we will have to deal with for a long time,” Norman said. “It is therefore very important for the one hundred thousand women who become pregnant every year in Sweden, and the 130 million in the world, to know that vaccination with mRNA-vaccines against COVID-19 is safe for their babies.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more about COVID vaccines in pregnancy.
SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, Feb. 6, 2024
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