More than an act of love: taking a vaccine during pregnancy provides protection for babies

More than an act of love: taking a vaccine during pregnancy provides protection for babies

They say that getting vaccinated is an act of love, in the case of pregnant women this statement is even more true. That’s because when a pregnant woman is vaccinated, she protects herself and the child while he is still in her belly, but also in the first months of his life.

“Maternal immunization consists of vaccinating the mother so that the antibodies produced during pregnancy cross the placenta and protect the fetus and newborn until the child’s basic vaccination schedule is fulfilled, which takes place around six months of age. In addition, antibodies also pass through breast milk, which further strengthens the baby’s immunity”, explains Évelyn Traina, assistant professor at the Department of Obstetrics at EPM-Unifesp (Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo) .

According to infectious disease specialist Ana Paula Alcântara, vaccines during pregnancy provide passive protection to babies when they cannot yet be vaccinated. “The immunized pregnant woman provides protection until the newborn evolves with the maturation of its immune defense system and produces its own antibodies. Maternal immunization is one of the strategies to protect and prevent the transmission of infections to the baby”, says the doctor, who is also vice president of the Bahia Society of Infectious Diseases and professor at the Bahia School of Medicine and Public Health.

Currently, 4 vaccines are part of the official schedule for pregnant women:

1) Adult-type triple bacterial vaccine (dTpa) protects against three diseases: diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.

“Pertussis is a disease caused by a bacterium and causes coughing fits. It can be serious, especially in young children. On the other hand, neonatal tetanus can be acquired due to contamination of objects not properly sterilized, and used, for example, for cord clamping. It’s rare thanks to vaccination, but it affects newborns from 5 to 7 days of life and can be serious. Both diseases can lead to the child’s death”, comments gynecologist Évelyn, member of the National Specialized Commission on Diseases. Infectious diseases of Febrasgo (Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics).

When to take: after the 20th week of pregnancy. It must be repeated with each pregnancy, regardless of when the woman was last pregnant.

Image: iStock

2) Hepatitis B: protects against hepatitis B. The aim of the vaccine is to prevent a woman from catching the disease during pregnancy and passing it on to her baby.

“90% of babies who are infected by the mother during childbirth develop the chronic form of the disease that can lead to liver cancer, liver cirrhosis and death”, says pediatrician Isabella Ballalai, vice president of SBIm (Brazilian Society of immunizations).

When to take: for previously unvaccinated women it is necessary to start the regimen from scratch (3 doses) at any time during pregnancy. Those who have already taken a dose, just need to complete it; and those who have already taken the complete regimen before becoming pregnant do not need to repeat it.

3) Influenza vaccine: protects against the flu, caused by the influenza virus, which can present serious conditions in pregnant women.

When to take: It is annual and must be taken with all pregnancies.

4) Vaccine against covid-19: indicated because of the increased risk of serious illness in pregnant women. “In the absence of the vaccine, there is a greater risk of hospitalization in the ICU and intubation. Despite the transmission of covid to the fetus and newborn being rare, when the mother has a serious disease there is a greater chance of premature birth and fetal death”, says the professor at Unifesp.

When to take: the calendar follows the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and other official bodies.

These are the four vaccines recommended for all pregnant women, but in some situations, such as in the case of chronic diseases or risk of epidemics, others may be indicated, among them, against pneumonia, meningitis and yellow fever.

According to infectious disease specialist Ana Paula, vaccines indicated during pregnancy are safe and effective, however, mild adverse reactions may occur, such as pain at the injection site, fever and/or flu-like symptoms.

Contracting a vaccine-preventable disease during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and baby and bring risks such as infections, pregnancy interruption, premature birth and even the death of the pregnant woman, according to the vice president of SBIm.

Vaccines that pregnant women cannot take

Vaccine in Alagoas;  Pregnant Vaccine - Carla Cleto/Ascom Sesau - Carla Cleto/Ascom Sesau
Image: Carla Cleto/Ascom Sesau

If, on the one hand, it is extremely important that pregnant women take the recommended vaccines, on the other hand, there are those that they cannot take, they are the so-called attenuated vaccines, that is, those containing live viruses: measles, mumps and rubella (called MMR) , chickenpox (chickenpox), HPV, dengue and yellow fever — as already explained, the latter may be indicated in situations where the risk of the disease is greater than the risk of vaccination, such as in endemic areas.

Second ballalaithese vaccines are contraindicated for safety reasons, however, there is no reason to despair if the woman took it without knowing she was pregnant.

“Many pregnant women around the world have already been, what we call inadvertently vaccinated, that is, immunized because they didn’t know they were pregnant. You can rest assured that there are no records of malformation or problems for the fetus. We have a lot of data in the literature that this is a theoretical risk – that no one wants to take – but it’s not a reason to panic.”

The Cocoon Strategy

In addition to the dTpa vaccine, which the woman takes after the 20th week of pregnancy, another way to protect the baby from whooping cough is through the Cocoon strategy, also known as “cocoon”.

“It consists of vaccinating adults and close family members (such as brothers, uncles, grandparents) to protect the newborn from the disease, which is transmitted mainly by people who live with him”, explains the Unifesp professor.

“Cocoon” means cocoon in English. It is worth mentioning that babies receive the whooping cough vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, and immunity occurs only after the last dose.

Where to get the vaccines?

Pregnant woman getting vaccine - iStock - iStock
Image: iStock

All vaccines recommended for pregnant women are covered by the SUS (Unified Health System) and are available free of charge at health posts.

In addition to the vaccines on the official calendar, vaccines against:

  • Hepatitis A: recommended for pregnant women under 16 years old;
  • Pneumonococcal vaccine: indicated in special situations of higher risk for pneumonia;
  • Meningococcal vaccine (ACWY, C and B conjugate): it is also recommended in specific situations and protects against meningitis.

On this site you can find all the vaccines that pregnant women should take: https://www.vacinasparagravidas.com.br/.

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