SOLNA, Sweden — Newborns of mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to die or experience serious complications, a new study shows. Conducted in Scandinavia and involving nearly 200,000 mothers, the study highlights that babies born to vaccinated mothers generally had better health outcomes than those whose mothers were not vaccinated.
A team from the Karolinska Institutet says their research underscores the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women and suggests potential health benefits for their newborns as well. Specifically, the team found that infants born to vaccinated women had a lower likelihood of facing severe complications, including death.
Despite these positive findings, the research team acknowledges their inability to pinpoint the exact reasons behind the improved health outcomes for babies born to vaccinated mothers, stating that a direct effect of the vaccination is “unlikely.”
The study uses national registers in Norway and Sweden to track 196,470 newborns, covering virtually all babies born to women who became pregnant after the vaccines were made available. The observation period ranges from June 2021 to January 2023, with each baby being monitored for at least one month or throughout their stay in a neonatal unit.
💡What Is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- It primarily affects the respiratory system, with symptoms similar to the common cold, flu, or pneumonia.
- The virus spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk.
- Vaccines offer strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Of the mothers included in the study, 48 percent received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the majority (80%) receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the remainder (20%) receiving the Moderna vaccine.
Findings reveal a lower rate of infant mortality among vaccinated mothers, with 0.9 infant deaths per 1,000 births, compared to 1.8 per 1,000 among unvaccinated mothers. Additionally, lower risks of brain hemorrhages and hypoxia/ischemia, a condition caused by insufficient oxygen to the brain before or shortly after birth, were noted in infants born to vaccinated mothers.
The occurrence of additional bleeding, blood clots, or inflammation in different organ systems was consistent across both groups.
“We made several attempts to explain this finding. A direct vaccine effect is unlikely,” says Professor Mikael Norman, a leading researcher from the Karolinska Institutet, in a media release. “Previous studies have shown that the vaccine does not cross the placenta and that it cannot be found in umbilical cord blood.”
The study’s findings are particularly significant post-pandemic, providing essential insights for healthcare professionals, policymakers, and potential parents about the safety and benefits of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.
“COVID-19 is still present in society and is probably something we will have to deal with for a long time. 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,” says Professor Norman. “We found no increased risks. If anything, infants to vaccinated women had lower risks for some severe outcomes.”
The research is published in JAMA.
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South West News Service writer James Gamble contributed to this report.