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COVID-19 vaccines do not increase risk for fetal abnormalities, study finds

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 does not increase the risk for fetal abnormalities in pregnant people, according to a new study. File Photo by&nbsp;John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/9559c81c60807d2d3c43a1cd571bd631/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 does not increase the risk for fetal abnormalities in pregnant people, according to a new study. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 4 (UPI) -- People vaccinated against COVID-19 before or during pregnancy are not at increased risk for having babies with body or functional "anomalies," or abnormalities, a study published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics found.

Of those who received a vaccine dose within 30 days of conception through 14 weeks of gestation, or pregnancy, 4.2% had evidence of fetal abnormalities that may affect life expectancy, health or functioning, the data showed.

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Among those who received a vaccine dose during weeks two through 10 of gestation, 4% had fetal abnormalities such as heart defects or microcephaly, or a smaller-than-normal head, the researchers said.

For study participants who remained unvaccinated prior to conception and during the early stages of pregnancies, this figure was 4.4%, according to the researchers.

RELATED COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy protects newborns, study shows

"We can add this to the loads of existing high-quality data out there that shows that the COVID vaccine is safe in pregnancy," study co-author Dr. Rachel Ruderman told UPI in an email.

"We found no increased risk of anomalies in the women who got their COVID vaccines in the early part of pregnancy," said Ruderman, a resident obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

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Previous studies have found that the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech do not increase the risk for pregnancy complications, including preterm birth.

RELATED COVID-19 damages placenta, raising risks for stillbirth

In addition, research suggests that pregnant people vaccinated against the virus pass immunity on to their unborn children.

Conversely, infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 during pregnancy has been shown to raise the risk for stillbirth, among other birth complications.

Up to 5% of births in the United States involve babies born structural defects that could affect future development and even be life-threatening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RELATED Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doesn't raise risk for pregnancy complications, study finds

For this study, Ruderman and her colleagues analyzed the electronic medical records for nearly 3,200 pregnant people, more than 2,600 of whom received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between 30 days prior to conception and 14 weeks of gestation.

More than 1,100 of the people in the study were fully vaccinated against the virus, the researchers said.

They compared rates of fetal structural anomalies, as observed on sonogram, or ultrasound, among the unvaccinated and vaccinated participants, they said.

"Many pregnant women are still hesitant to getting the vaccine, especially during pregnancy [due to] worry that it will hurt the baby," Ruderman said.

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"Our study shows that the vaccine does not increase the risk of congenital anomalies, even if received early in pregnancy during organ development, often thought to be the most vulnerable time for anomalies," she said.

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