Coronavirus vaccines given during pregnancy might provide protection to babies after they are born, according to a new study.

The study, released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that infants whose mothers were fully vaccinated with mRNA shots while pregnant were about 60 percent less likely to be hospitalized for the virus in their first six months of life. That protection appeared to be stronger if the vaccination occurred after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

It’s the first real-world evidence demonstrating that maternal vaccination may benefit not just the mother but the baby.

“The bottom line is that maternal vaccination is a really important way to help protect these young infants,” Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s infant outcomes monitoring research and prevention branch. “Today’s news is highly welcome, particularly in the backdrop of the recent increase in hospitalizations among very young children.”

The CDC has for months recommended vaccination for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant, noting that pregnancy increases the risk of severe problems from the virus. Studies have found a higher risk of hospitalization, intensive-care admission and death compared with the non-pregnant population. The risk of preterm birth and stillbirth is also greater without vaccination.

Research into other diseases has found that immunization in pregnancy can provide protection to infants in the first six months of life. Recent studies suggested that might occur with coronavirus vaccines, but there was no epidemiologic evidence of it before the study released Tuesday.

The study included data on 379 infants hospitalized at 20 pediatric hospitals in 17 states between July and January, including 176 who had covid-19.

Meaney-Delman said that further research on the best timing is needed and that, given the risks covid-19 poses to the pregnant individual, “as soon as a pregnant woman is willing to be vaccinated, we recommend that she go ahead and do so.”


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