Pregnant women who received COVID-19 vaccinations received a “ten-fold” greater antibody concentration over those who were naturally infected with the coronavirus, a University of Pennsylvania study found.

The Ivy League research school partnered with Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia to conduct its research involving patients who gave birth during the period that saw the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

They evaluated cord blood serum from 585 people with detectable COVID antibodies, including 169 who were vaccinated, but never infected, and 408 who were infected, but not vaccinated – and the results showed the greater antibody protection also extended to the vaccinated mothers’ newborn babies.

“These findings suggest that COVID-19 vaccination not only provides robust protection for mothers during pregnancy – it also provides higher concentrations of antibodies to babies than COVID-19 infection,” said first author Dr. Dustin D. Flannery, an attending neonatologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Given that pregnancy is a risk factor for severe COVID-19, this study suggests pregnant people should prioritize getting vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies,” added Flannery, who also is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn.

Karen Puopolo, an attending neonatologist at CHOP and fellow senior author on the study, said they discovered that timing was a key factor.

“Our study suggests that time from infection or vaccination to delivery was the most important factor in transfer efficiency, and these findings can inform optimal COVID-19 vaccination strategy during pregnancy,” according to Puopolo, who also serves as chief of Pennsylvania Hospital’s section on newborn medicine.

“Patients should plan to get vaccinated with ample time before their due date, so that they – and their babies – can benefit from a robust immune response.”

Local cases

Cambria and Somerset counties had slight upticks in COVID-19 cases over the past week. The latest seven-day total showed 152 cases were reported in Cambria County, up from 141 a week earlier.

Somerset County had 94 cases after reporting 76 for the previous seven days.

Cambria County added two COVID-19 deaths while Somerset County added one, state Department of Health data showed.

Blair County added 82 new cases, while Clearfield County added 93 and Bedford County had 23. Indiana County added 85 cases.

Centre County added 120 cases, which was down from 146 cases the previous week.

Westmoreland County added 329 cases. The county also added four deaths.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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