Vaccines don’t harm pregnancies, and may even help babies, Israeli doctors claim

After looking at data from 3,000 women, Jerusalem doctors say shot not dangerous for pregnant women, but those who contract COVID at higher risk of going into early labor

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

Illustrative image: a neonatal nurse hands a baby to his mother during the coronavirus pandemic. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)
Illustrative image: a neonatal nurse hands a baby to his mother during the coronavirus pandemic. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)

An analysis of health data from 3,000 women in Jerusalem has found that coronavirus vaccines do not raise pregnancy risks, but contracting COVID-19 can make women slightly more vulnerable to premature labor, a doctor said Tuesday.

Health authorities widely recommend vaccines for everyone aged over 12, including women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant — but many such women are hesitant.

Doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center looked at the data of 3,000 women, finding no correlation between inoculation and pregnancy-related complications. They even found even early signs that babies of vaccinated mothers could be less likely to develop complications.

“We wanted to see if there is any impact of the vaccines on unborn babies, and we saw there are absolutely no pregnancy complications arising from vaccination,” Dr. Misgav Rottenstreich, a senior Shaare Zedek physician, told The Times of Israel.

What the study did see is a slightly increased risk for going into labor early for those who contracted COVID, even if they recovered. While 2.8 percent of vaccinated and non-vaccinated women alike went into premature labor, the rate went up to 3.4% among women who had contracted the virus and recovered.

“This mostly reflects infections close to the delivery date, which appear to put mothers at risk of preterm delivery,” said Rottenstreich.

He added that since the study ended in April, data from hundreds more women has been collected and it corroborates the earlier findings.

“This is a large study which means that our conclusions are solid. We hope that this study will increase the number of pregnant women who get the vaccine, because there are many who are afraid to get the vaccine because of concerns about pregnancy.”

The study has not been published or peer reviewed. However other published studies, such as an analysis of over 17,000 women published by the Journal of the American Medical Association last week, have also shown vaccines to be safe for pregnant women.

A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to a pregnant woman at a Clalit Health Services clinic in Tel Aviv on January 23, 2021. (AFP)

“There are no bad consequences at all arising from COVID vaccination, and there may even be positive consequences,” Rottenstreich said, adding that he doesn’t have a medical explanation for the possible positive consequences.

Among the possible positive consequences:

  • Intensive care was marginally more common among the babies of unvaccinated women, 4.5% of whom ended up in the ICU while 4.1% of babies with vaccinated moms ended up there. The rate was 5.2% among kids whose mothers caught COVID-19 and recovered.
  • Breathing support was needed by 0.8% of all infants born to vaccinated mothers, compared to 1.5% of the babies of the non-vaccinated and 1.1% of those whose moms recovered from the coronavirus.
Illustrative image: nurse takes care of an infant at the new Neonatal intensive care unit in the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on February 24, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Our study revealed that the virus has the potential to negatively impact both the mother and infant while the vaccine only improves the health of expectant mothers and allows them to continue their lifestyles without any need to be isolated from the general population,” said Prof. Sarina Grisaru, director of Shaare Zedek’s Wilf Women and Infant Center and a co-author of the study.

“With this new data, we can conclusively advise all pregnant women to go out and get vaccinated.”

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