When it comes to COVID-19 antibodies, do babies born to vaccinated mothers have higher levels than those born to women who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection?
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined this topic and concluded that babies born to vaccinated women show the highest antibody levels. This is an important finding to help mothers learn about the duration of vaccine protection.
“This is amazing data to help us understand how effective and safe the vaccine is during pregnancy and for the baby,” says Dr. Yasaswi Kislovskiy, an obstetrician / gynecologist with Allegheny Health Network. “When a person gets the vaccine during pregnancy, their immune system produces antibodies that circulate in the blood and then pass to the baby through the blood in the placenta. Baby keeps these antibodies in the blood even after birth, which is great. Babies can not make their own antibodies straight. after the birth, so they need all that protection against anything that can be transmitted during pregnancy. “
Of the infants studied, 98% of vaccinated mothers had detectable levels of the protective immunoglobulin G (IgG), the most common antibody found in blood. After 6 months, the researchers looked at 28 of the infants born to vaccinated mothers and found that 57% still had detectable IgG compared to only 8% born to infected mothers.
The question remains: Why do antibodies produced by the vaccine appear to last longer than natural immunity?
“The vaccines contain inactive small pieces of specific regions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the disease COVID-19,” Kislovskiy explains. “These little pieces do not cause any SARS-CoV-2 infection, but they are really powerful at triggering the immune system to produce strong antibodies against the virus.”
She says the key may be the body’s muscle memory when it comes to responding to the second and third doses of the vaccine, because it already formed antibodies after the first dose. “Your body can then use its memory to make even more antibodies than before. It does not have to work so hard to make the antibodies, as it already has notes on how to do it. “
In contrast, Kislovskiy says some studies show that the body does not produce such a powerful antibody response from a natural infection. “When you make antibodies after the infection, studies show that they are probably weaker than the antibodies you make after the vaccine, and they do not last that long,” she said. “The vaccine shots can help keep the antibodies longer and give you stronger types of antibodies because of the way they are made and how the range of doses reminds your immune system to keep making the antibodies.”
When it comes to whether pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine, or whether many are still hesitant, doctors report a mixed reaction.
“It has been amazing to see how much new excitement there is around the vaccine and how many pregnant women are getting the vaccine,” adds Kislovskiy. “Some people are still worried about the vaccine and I’m happy to tell them that all the data we have says it’s absolutely safe for mother and baby.” To alleviate their fears, she cites data showing that a SARS-CoV-2 infection is potentially much more dangerous than the vaccine.
“We have data showing for pregnant people who get a COVID-19 infection that there is an increased risk of premature birth, mother becomes seriously ill and needs a breathing tube, or that baby is very small or having an abortion, ” she said. “I also support my patients in making the right decision for them and their families. Pregnancy is an anxious time for many reasons. Hopefully, the vaccine is a tool to put one of these concerns aside and be able to enjoy and prepare for the new little one who will join your family. “
Kislovskiy said she encourages expectant mothers to get the vaccine. “Yes, I recommend the vaccine to my patients.” “I am deeply concerned about my patients and would like to offer them the best care that medication can provide. I remind patients that if they feel a little uncomfortable after the vaccine, it is safe to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce the symptoms. “Getting the vaccine is a great way to protect the pregnant woman and the baby.”
Still, she says, she understands how difficult it is to navigate all the medical information out there today.
“I sometimes worry that it’s hard for patients to know who to trust or how to feel safe,” Kislovskiy says. “I hope that by listening to my patients, helping them find the choice that is right for them, and by providing them with the best evidence I can find, they can find support and security during their pregnancy.”