By Luke Andrews Health Reporter for Dailymail.Com
21:49 November 28, 2023, updated 22:31 November 28, 2023
Thousands of premature births may have been avoided thanks to Covid vaccines, a new study suggests.
Despite widespread misinformation about vaccines causing fertility problems, California researchers have linked these vaccines to a 78% decrease in premature births among expectant mothers infected with the virus.
They analyzed data on millions of births recorded in the state between 2014 and 2022 and detected an increase in premature births in 2020 – when the virus first spread in the United States.
The study attributed this to Covid infections in pregnant women, which increase the risk of premature birth due to infection-related inflammation and stress.
But by 2022, the premature birth rate had returned to pre-pandemic levels – following the rollout of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
The vaccines are thought to have triggered the mother’s immune system to recognize and attack the virus early in the infection, reducing the risk of serious illness.
Expectant mothers infected with Covid had at least a 60% higher risk of giving birth prematurely – or giving birth to a child before 37 weeks of gestation – at the start of the pandemic compared to those who were not infected , according to studies. suggest.
Expectant mothers are more vulnerable to serious infections because their immune systems are weaker during pregnancy.
Scientists suggest Covid has also increased the risk of premature birth, as it could trigger a ‘cytokine storm’.
This is an overreaction of the immune system that sees the body attack healthy tissue.
In the United States, about one in ten children are born prematurely – or before 37 weeks of gestation – according to surveys.
In many cases, young people do not suffer adverse consequences. But those who are born early are at higher risk of complications, including infections, asthma and developmental delays.
Researchers analyzed data from California because the state had recorded on birth certificates whether pregnant women had been infected with Covid since June 2020.
Mothers were tested for the virus before being admitted to one of the state’s 400 hospitals or birthing centers, when possible.
There are an average of 400,000 births in California each year, which is equivalent to many countries – and allows the results to be generalized globally.
The results showed that a mother’s risk of premature birth increased by 78 percent for those infected with Covid in 2020 (or rose from 6.9 to 12.3 percent of all premature births) .
The rate increased further by 4.1% in 2021 with the emergence of the more serious Delta variant.
But it returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, following the major vaccine rollout, rising infections and the emergence of the milder Omicron variant.
In areas with higher vaccination rates, scientists found that premature births among Covid-infected mothers fell a year earlier than in areas with low vaccination rates.
California began rolling out the Covid vaccine on December 14, 2020, and in July 2021 also began administering the vaccines to pregnant women.
As of December 2022, 84% of California residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Jenna Nobles, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the research, said: “In ZIP codes with the highest vaccination rates, the excess risk of preterm birth declines much faster.
“As of summer 2021, having Covid during pregnancy had no effect on the risk of preterm birth in these communities.
“It takes almost a year longer for this to happen in zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates.
“This shows how protective the Covid vaccines have been. By increasing immunity more quickly, early vaccination likely prevented thousands of premature births in the United States.
Vaccines triggered immunity to the virus by priming the immune system to fight infection to avoid serious illness.
But infections early in the pandemic probably also helped, scientists say, because they also taught young women’s immune systems how to fight the virus.
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