Research Continues Around COVID-19 Vaccinations and Pregnancy

Infection in pregnancy increases the risk for preterm delivery and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), are continuing to evaluate the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations during pregnancy and monitoring the immune response for the mother and baby post vaccination.

Research to date indicates that pregnant people are particularly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at higher risk of developing a more serious or complicated disease course, which includes an approximately 70% greater risk of death. Further, infection in pregnancy increases the risk for preterm delivery and other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth.

“Pregnant people are considered a priority population for COVID-19 vaccination. However, only about a third of pregnant persons have chosen vaccination,” said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, principal investigator on the Vaccines and Medications in Pregnancy Surveillance System coordinated by AAAAI, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and director of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists MotherToBaby Pregnancy Studies, in a press release. “As pregnant persons were not included in the original clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccinations, there is a critical need to do this work to help provide concrete information about the safety and benefits of these vaccines for both mother and baby.”

The researchers will utilize the established US MotherToBaby pregnancy cohort study at UC San Diego and follow-up with 900 individuals administered 1 or more doses of any COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and 900 who did not. They will analyze pregnancy outcomes, such as major birth defects, miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and postpartum growth of infants through 1 year of age.

Additionally, in a subset of 180 women in the study, the research team will collect blood samples after vaccination in different trimesters of pregnancy to measure the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

The expansion of T lymphocytes that recognize spike and non-spike regions of the virus will be studied. The development of T cell memory, which is critical to determine long-lasting protection from infection, will also be distinctive with the measurement of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in both mother and baby after delivery.

“The results of this sub-study will provide essential efficacy information that can support COVID-19 vaccine-related public health recommendations in this special population,” said Alessandra Franco, MD, PhD, co-investigator on the study, immunologist, and associate professor in Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, in the press release.

The study will continue enrolling pregnant persons through 2024 and expected to end in 2026.

REFERENCE

Researchers continue study of COVID-19 vaccinations, pregnancy and postpartum. EurekAlert! June 23, 2022. Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/956904