Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 during pregnancy could also transfer antibodies to newborns

Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 during pregnancy could also transfer antibodies to newborns

This is what emerges from a study by the University of New York: pregnant women subjected to the full course of vaccination would be able to transfer antibodies

Photo: freestocks / Unsplash Vaccines against Sars-cov-2 and pregnancy: after the initial precautions, the growing body of evidence from vaccinations indicates that these are safe and able to protect even pregnant women. Not just protection for mothers-to-be: a team of researchers from New York University found, in a small number of newborns, a high amount of anti-coronavirus antibodies deriving from mothers who had undergone a full course of vaccination with mRna vaccines. Transferring immunity to newborns would be crucial to protect babies from infections during the first months of life: the results of the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, suggest.

Protecting children newborns when they are most vulnerable

A newborn baby is particularly vulnerable to infection, as it has an immature immune system that is unable to adequately protect it from bacteria and viruses. Fortunately, there are maternal antibodies, which consist of a particular type of molecule produced by the pregnant woman's immune system, called immunoglobulins G (the IgG that is normally sought in antibody assays in blood tests). They are able to cross the placenta at the time of delivery and be transferred to the newborn, who will thus be protected in the first months of life, precisely when they are most susceptible to infections.

This also happens with Sars-cov-2. Some studies conducted in the last year have shown how pregnant women exposed to the coronavirus were able to transmit their antibodies to the baby once it is born, in order to protect it. The problem, however, is that natural antibody responses against Sars-cov-2 are often not protective enough, in addition to the fact that pregnant women, if exposed to the virus, are at greater risk of developing the disease in a serious manner. Maternal antibodies, however, are also produced following vaccination: it is precisely from this that the researchers of the US university, led by Jennifer L. Lighter, started. The researchers wanted to verify whether and to what extent the antibodies of women vaccinated during pregnancy reached the fetus.

Vaccination in pregnancy

During the early stages of vaccination campaigns, the recommendations on vaccination in pregnancy were rather neutral, as the initial trials did not foresee the participation of pregnant women. After months, following animal studies, clinical studies still in progress and thanks to the high number of administrations carried out, health institutions agree on the safety of vaccines and on the importance of vaccinating pregnant women against the coronavirus.

Last August 4th, the Ministry of Health issued a circular according to which pregnancy is not a contraindication for vaccination against Covid-19, especially because - as stated in the faq of the Italian Medicines Agency - pregnancy could make women most exposed to risk in case of serious illness.

Now this study, conducted on 36 newborns whose mothers had received the double dose of mRna vaccine, could highlight an additional benefit deriving from vaccination: the results indicated, in fact, that all the children examined possessed protective antibodies against Sars-cov-2.

To exclude that this was axis of antibodies deriving from natural infection, the researchers looked for both the molecules against the spike protein, present both in natural infections and following vaccinations, and those against the nucleocapsid protein, which instead are present only in natural infections: among the 36 samples collected, all had elevated levels of immunoglobulin G against the spike protein, and 31 were tested for antibodies against the nucleocapsid protein and found negative. According to the researchers, this represents evidence of the transfer of immunity from mothers to children from Covid-19 vaccines, as is the case with other vaccines.

Protecting two lives simultaneously

"Studies continue to reinforce the importance of vaccines during pregnancy and their power to protect two lives simultaneously, preventing serious illness in both mothers and babies," says Ashley S. Roman, of the research team that signed the study. . "High levels of antibody transfer across the placenta are not surprising: it is consistent with what we see with other vaccinations," adds Lighter.

It should be remembered that this is a study conducted on a small number of newborns, and that more research is needed to determine how effective antibodies are in children, the duration of antibody protection, and whether there are differences between vaccinations given at different times of pregnancy. "Our findings add to a growing list of important reasons why women should be counseled on the Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy, for the added benefit of their newborn receiving protection," says the researcher. >

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