Pregnant women have long been advised to avoid alcohol and tobacco and to take folic acid. In the age of the coronavirus, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is also strongly recommended.
Vaccination helps protect not only expectant mothers but also their babies, both in utero and after birth, according to two separate studies whose conclusions run counter to common misinformation about the vaccine and pregnancy.
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests pregnant women with at least moderate COVID-19 symptoms are at greater risk for pregnancy complications — besides the health impacts of the disease — than those not infected or with mild or no symptoms.
The complications included a higher chance of requiring a Cesarean section, to deliver preterm, to die around the time of birth and to experience postpartum hemorrhage and other pregnancy disorders. They also had a higher risk of miscarrying or having an infant die during the newborn period.
Nearly 13,000 expectant mothers were included in the analysis, about 2,400 of them infected with the virus.
“The findings underscore the need for women of child-bearing age and pregnant individuals to be vaccinated and to take other precautions against becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Diana Bianchi of the NIH.
Another report published Monday, based on research from Massachusetts General Hospital, showed vaccination during pregnancy produced higher antibody levels in the mothers and more persistent ones in their infants than so-called natural immunity from coronavirus infection in mothers.
After two months, 48 of 49 infants born to vaccinated mothers had detectable amounts of the most common antibody found in blood. At six months, 16 of 28 (57%) of the babies tracked still had detectable levels. Among the babies born to infected mothers, only 1 out of 12 (8%) had such levels.
“Pregnant women are at extremely high risk for serious complications from COVID,” said Dr. Galit Alter, co-senior author of the study. “And given the lag in development of COVID-19 vaccines for infants, these data should motivate mothers to get vaccinated and even boosted during pregnancy to empower their babies’ defenses against COVID.”
Also in the news:
►Democratic Gov. John Carney is rescinding an order he imposed a month ago requiring Delawareans to wear masks in indoor business settings.
►Germany, which has some of the tightest restrictions in Europe, will begin relaxing rules after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February.
►The rate of Black Georgians who have been vaccinated with at least one shot is now 52.3%, virtually identical to the 53% of whites, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, citing state numbers.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 76 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 903,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 396 million cases and over 5.7 million deaths. More than 212 million Americans – 64.1% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: The United States surpassed 900,000 coronavirus deaths amid positive data indicating the worst could be in the rearview mirror even as statistical warning lights flash on the pandemic dashboard. The omicron variant surge that pushed daily infection numbers to new heights appears to be easing. Daily infections and hospitalizations are edging lower. USA TODAY’s John Bacon explains why the respite could be short-lived.
Daily U.S. deaths from the most recent coronavirus surge may finally be ready to decline.
Most states are now reporting fewer deaths than they had been a week ago, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Twenty states still had more deaths than the previous week, but that’s a decrease of 14 states. The U.S. continues to average about 2,400 to 2,500 deaths per day, a daily human cost about equal to the losses at Pearl Harbor.
The number of fatalities from COVID surpassed 900,000 on Friday. If the pace of American deaths falls at the same rate it increased during the current omicron surge, the nation will reach 1 million in about 55 days, or the beginning of April.
Of course, the emergence of another variant could invalidate any predictions.
“We need to be cautiously optimistic,” said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an assistant professor and director of diversity at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Considering the surrounding circumstances, including the spread of the virus still, it won’t be very useful to the public to expect omicron to be the last variant.”
– Mike Stucka