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Data proves COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant women and newborns

By: Jen Warner

A study published by JAMA Pediatrics on Feb. 10, 2022, concludes that exposure to the COVID-19 vaccine in utero poses no increased risk to newborns.

Maccabi Health Care Services senior researcher Dr. Inbal Goldshtein and her co-authors conducted this study as a follow up to their previously published work, which sought to provide evidence-based information to couples worldwide who had safety concerns about getting vaccinated while pregnant.

Despite endorsements from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO,) the vaccine faced ongoing skepticism from pregnant women who, according to the study, reported safety as their number one concern.

The study also claims that leaving pregnant women out of early COVID-19 vaccine trials resulted in gaps in information that drove expectant mothers to decline vaccination.

“When making the decision to get vaccinated, the vaccine was so new that my obstetrician didn’t have an opinion,” said Lauren Dugan, a frontline worker who was newly pregnant at the start of the vaccine rollout. “It was extremely upsetting.”

Stories like Dugan’s are what motivated Goldshtein to find answers.

“As a mother of 3, I can identify with pregnancy related concerns and the need for evidence to support decisions regarding medical interventions administered during this sensitive period,” Goldshtein said in an email interview.

After their initial results suggested that vaccination is safe during all phases of pregnancy, Goldshtein and her team were approached with follow up questions about the babies.

“At the time, this could not be adequately investigated as most pregnancies were still ongoing,” Goldshtein said. “In time, I was able to complete the picture and report the safety for the babies as well.”

The population-based study was conducted in Israel by analyzing data from the Maccabi Healthcare Services database, a state mandated health fund with 2.5 million members.

Their sample included 24,288 births that took place over a six-month period. Of those births, close to 17 thousand babies were born to mothers who were vaccinated in the first or second trimester of their pregnancies without increased complications.

Of those births, a subgroup analysis of preterm birth, birth weight, neonatal hospitalizations, post neonatal hospitalizations, birth defects, and infant mortality revealed no substantial differences between babies that were exposed to the vaccine in utero and babies that were not.

“This is incredibly positive and reassuring news for women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy and worry about the jab,” Goldshtein said. “They can now make an informed decision about safety for both the mother and infant.”

Goldshtein I, Steinberg DM, Kuint J, et al. Association of BNT162b2 COVID-19 Vaccination During Pregnancy With Neonatal and Early Infant Outcomes. JAMA Pediatr. Published online February 10, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.0001

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