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COVID vaccines in pregnancy safe for infant brain development


One of the oft-repeated claims from anti-vaccine activists is that the COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe during pregnancy. There has never been any evidence to support that claim. Still, a new study from the University of California San Francisco shows that the COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fetal brain development during pregnancy.

This study is the first to provide solid evidence that COVID vaccination of pregnant patients does not disrupt early childhood development up to 18 months of life for their babies. We continue to have robust scientific evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

As I have written before, the CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women receive the vaccine because it protects the developing and newborn baby by keeping the mother from contracting the disease. Furthermore, there is significant evidence that babies born from mothers who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy exhibit significant neurodevelopmental delays.

Like I usually do, I will review this new study and provide you with the key data to support the safety of the COVID vaccines for pregnant women and their newborn babies.

toddler wearing head scarf in bed
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COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy paper

In a paper published on 22 January 2024 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, Eleni Jaswa, MD, MSc, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues studied a total of 2,487 pregnant individuals with a mean age of 33.3 years enrolled in the nationwide study before 10 weeks’ gestation who completed research activities.

Birth mothers completed neurodevelopmental assessments, using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, third edition (ASQ-3), of their infants at 12 and 18 months of age. The study included 2,261 children at 12 months of age and 1,940 at 18 months of age. A score below the established cutoff in any of the five subdomains (communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, or social skills) constituted a neurodevelopmental delay.

Here are the key results:

  • No statistical differences in the neurodevelopment of infants were found between vaccinated and unvaccinated mothers after adjusting for baseline maternal age, race, ethnicity, education, income, anxiety, and depression (adjusted relative risk, or aRR, equaled 1.14).
  • There was a statistically increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay among male infants with vaccinated mothers at 12 months of age (aRR = 1.29). However, the difference was not sustained at 18 months (aRR = 1.06). Recent research identified an increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders at 12 months among male but not female infants after in-utero exposure to COVID-19 infection; this association was similarly not sustained at 18 months.
  • For females, there was no statistical difference in risk of abnormal ASQ-3 screens among infants from vaccinated mothers versus unvaccinated mothers at 12 months of age (aRR = 1.02), and a risk reduction was observed among infants from vaccinated mothers at age 18 months (aRR 0.69, 95% CI 0.51-0.93).

Summary

This study showed no increased risk of delays to brain development in children from vaccinated mothers. Although there was a slightly increased risk of neurodevelopmental delay in male children, the same delay was observed in males whose mothers contracted COVID-19. Furthermore, that delay disappeared at the age of 18 months.

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination for mothers did not affect the brain development of the infant. Of course, as I mentioned previously, mothers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 have much better outcomes for birth and child development compared to unvaccinated mothers.

One more reason to get the vaccine.

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Michael Simpson

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