More than an act of love: getting vaccinated during pregnancy protects babies – 08/15/2022

It is said that getting vaccinated is an act of love, and in the case of pregnant women, this statement is even truer. Indeed, when a pregnant woman is vaccinated, she protects herself and the child as long as it is still in her womb, but also in the first months of its 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 completed, which takes place around the age of six months. In addition, the antibodies also pass through the breast of the milk, which further strengthens the baby’s immunity”, explains Évelyn Traina, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics at EPM-Unifesp (Escola Paulista de Medicina, Federal University of São Paulo).

According to infectious disease specialist Ana Paula Alcântara, vaccines during pregnancy provide passive protection for babies when they cannot yet be vaccinated. “The vaccinated 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 in the baby”, specifies 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 spells. It can be serious, especially in young children. On the other hand, neonatal tetanus can be contracted following the contamination of poorly sterilized objects, and used, for example, for It is 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 death of the child”, comments gynecologist Evelyn, member of the National Specialized Commission on Infectious Diseases. Febrasgo diseases (Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics).

When to take: after the 20th week of pregnancy. It must be repeated for each pregnancy, regardless of the date of the last pregnancy.

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Image: iStock

2) Hepatitis B: protects against hepatitis B. The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent a woman from getting 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 which can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis liver disease and death,” says pediatrician Isabella Ballalai, vice president of SBIm (Brazilian Vaccination Society).

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

3) Influenza vaccine: protects against influenzacaused by virus fluwhich 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 severe disease in pregnant women. “In the absence of a vaccine, there is a greater risk of hospitalization in intensive care and intubation. Although the transmission of covid to the fetus and newborn is rare, when the mother has a serious illness, it there is a greater risk of premature delivery and fetal death, ”explains the professor at Unifep.

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

These are the four vaccines recommended for all pregnant women, but in certain 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 side effects may occur, such as pain at the injection site, fever and/or flu-like symptoms.

According to the vice-president of the SBIm, contracting a vaccine-preventable disease during pregnancy can be dangerous for the mother and the baby and lead to risks such as infections, termination of pregnancy, premature birth and even death. the pregnant woman.

Vaccines that pregnant women cannot take

Alagoas vaccine;  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, these are the so-called attenuated vaccines, that is, say those that contain live virus: measlesmumps and rubella (called MMR), chickenpox (varicella), HPV, dengue fever and yellow fever – as already explained, the latter may be indicated in situations where the risk of 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 that she was pregnant.

“Many pregnant women around the world have already been, what we call inadvertently vaccinated, that is, immunized because they did not know they were pregnant. there is no record of malformation or problems with 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 is 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 the Cocoon strategy, also called “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 Professor Unifesp.

“Cocoon” means cocoon in English. It should be mentioned that babies receive the pertussis vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, and immunity occurs only after the last dose.

Where to get the vaccines?

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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 listed in the official calendar, vaccines against:

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

On this site, you can find all the vaccines that pregnant women must take:

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