A woman in Florida has given birth to what is believed to be the first child born with COVID-19 antibodies after receiving a vaccine while pregnant.
The woman, who is a frontline healthcare worker, was called up to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at 36 weeks of pregnancy and gave birth 3 weeks later to a healthy baby girl, the Guardian reports. Antibodies were found from the time of delivery after analyzing blood from the umbilical cord.
“To our knowledge, this was the first in the world that was reported of a baby being born with antibodies after a vaccination,” said pediatrician Paul Gilbert in a statement to WPBF.
The findings have been reported by Gilbert and Chad Rudnick in a new preprint study (meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed).
The paper explains that the safety and efficacy of flu vaccinations for pregnant people have been well studied in terms of protection for the newborn by placental transfer of antibodies. However not much is know about COVID-19 vaccinations and the transfer of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies during pregnancy, but a similar sort of protection should be expected, Gilbert and Rudnick say.
“We tested ... the baby’s blood, to see if the antibodies in the mother passed to the baby which is something we see happen with other vaccines given during pregnancy,” Gilbert told WPBF.
After testing blood from the umbilical cord of the baby at the time of birth, the doctors found SARS-CoV-2 antibodies present, noting in the preprint: "Thus, there is potential for protection and infection risk reduction from SARS-CoV-2 with maternal vaccination."
Interestingly, an earlier study had found COVID-19 antibodies present in breast milk from mothers that recovered from the infection, speculating it might be possible to transfer antibodies to a newborn via this mechanism.
Nevertheless, the study authors stress that it is currently unknown how well the antibodies would protect the newborn or when during pregnancy would be best to vaccinate to confer the best immunological transfer to the unborn.
“This is one small case in what will be thousands and thousands of babies born to mothers who have been vaccinated over the next several months,” Rudnick said.
More investigations will need to be carried out to see whether antibodies are actually prevalent in most babies born to mothers and pregant people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to look at whether there might be any differences depending on which vaccine is received.
To conclude, the authors "urge other investigators to create pregnancy and breastfeeding registries as well as conduct efficacy and safety studies of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant and breastfeeding woman and their offspring."
For more information about COVID-19, check out the IFLScience COVID-19 hub where you can follow the current state of the pandemic, the progress of vaccine development, and further insights into the disease.