Risks to Newborns and the Protective Role of Vaccination

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Over four years since the emergence of COVID-19, research has highlighted the potential risks of maternal COVID-19 infections on infant health. A recent study published in Nature Communications revealed that babies born to mothers with COVID-19 during pregnancy had significantly higher rates of respiratory distress at birth or shortly after. This distress was characterized by symptoms such as slow breathing, pale or bluish skin, flaring nostrils, and chest retraction.

The study, which enrolled 221 pregnant women with COVID-19, found that approximately 17% of the nearly 200 babies studied experienced respiratory distress, a rate higher than the average among newborns. The average hospital stay for these infants was around 24 days, indicating the severity of their condition.

While the timing of a mother's COVID-19 infection did not appear to influence the risk of respiratory issues in her baby, her vaccination status did. Infants born to unvaccinated mothers had three times the odds of respiratory distress compared to those whose mothers had received at least one mRNA vaccine dose.

Research suggests that inflammation may play a role in the development of health issues in babies exposed to COVID-19 in the womb. When a pregnant person contracts COVID-19, their body produces cytokines, proteins involved in the immune response, which can trigger inflammation. This inflammation may cross the placenta and affect the baby, or it may activate immune cells in the placenta, which then activate immune cells in the infant.

The study found elevated levels of inflammatory proteins in blood samples taken from newborns, supporting the hypothesis that COVID-19 creates an inflammatory cascade in the mother, which the infants respond to. This inflammatory response can disrupt the normal function of cilia in the lungs, potentially leading to future respiratory issues or asthma.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09