No neurodevelopmental issues found in babies of COVID-vaccinated moms

baby puzzle task

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In first results from a study that tracked neurodevelopmental differences in babies born to mothers who were vaccinated against COVID-19, researchers found no differences at the 12- and 18-month marks compared to babies born to unvaccinated moms.

The team, from the University of California, San Fransisco, published its findings yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics. Against the backdrop of vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women and even in some of their healthcare providers, the researchers said their goal was to address unanswered questions about the longer-term impacts of COVID vaccination on developmental outcomes.

Screening results yielded no differences

In the prospective cohort study, the researchers enrolled women who were less than 10 weeks pregnant and their babies in the online study from May 2020 to August 2021, including participants from all 50 states. Of those, 89.3% were White. Of 2,487 women enrolled in the study, 68% said they were vaccinated, of whom 76% reported receiving an mRNA vaccine.

Researchers collected demographic information about the mothers, then tracked babies' neurodevelopment remotely using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire that was completed by the mothers when the children were 12 or 18 months old. The group's analysis includes 2,261 babies who were 12 months old and 1,920 who were 18 months old. Follow-up of the children is ongoing.

The validated screening tool is designed to examine five areas, including communication, gross-motor, fine-motor, problem solving, and social skills.

Crude analysis found that, at 12 months, 30.6% of infants exposed to the vaccine while mothers were pregnant had an abnormal screening result, compared to 28.2% of unexposed infants. At 18 months, the percentages were 20.1% and 23.2%, respectively.

When investigators adjusted for maternal age, race, ethnicity, education, income, maternal depression, and anxiety, however, they found no difference in abnormal neurodevelopmental screening results. Adjusting for preterm birth and infant gender also had no impact on the results.

Useful clinical clues as further investigation continues

Concerns about the impact of COVID vaccination on offspring are understandable, and questions about the effects of vaccination on cytokine profiles and inflammatory response are still unclear, the authors wrote. They noted that early clinical data can provide useful clues.

They said earlier studies on fetal exposure to SARS-CoV-2 showed mixed results regarding neurodevelopment, but none had data on maternal COVID vaccination.

"Our findings more generally underscore the importance of ongoing prospective investigations in large, diverse cohorts of children across development, to provide an evidence basis for real-time clinical guidance in the setting of novel exposures to mothers and infants," they wrote.

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