COVID-19 antibodies can pass from mom to baby, case study finds

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Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 18, 2021

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Can a COVID-19 vaccine protect your baby before it's born? A medical expert and a mother weighed in after a baby was born with antibodies.

Battling COVID-19 and breastfeeding, that was the reality for Stephanie Smith five weeks after she had her daughter, Mila Grace.

"The best way to describe it was a roller coaster. One day I felt fine, the next day I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks," she said. "At one point, she wasn't eating that much. So, we had to force-feed her."

And it was a battle that took its toll on mom's mental health.

"I felt like I failed as a mother, because my one job was to protect her and then we still got it," she said

It's a situation that makes you wonder if a vaccine could have helped. But that's a question that doesn't really have an answer yet, because the jury on if that's safe for moms is still out.

"It's hard, you know. For some people, it's a no-brainer, yes to the vaccine or no to the vaccine, but I am kind of in-between," said Smith.

That said, a new case study published by two doctors in South Florida shows that for one mom, a Moderna vaccine she received while 36 weeks pregnant may be protecting her baby from COVID-19 after birth.

The woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl with COVID-19 antibodies three weeks after her vaccination. Researchers detected the antibodies after analyzing blood from the baby's umbilical cord taken immediately after birth and before placenta delivery.

"And this is really the first instance, the first documented instance of a baby being born who has antibodies to COVID-19," said Robert Hawkes, the Physicians Assistant Students Program Director at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Hawkes says the fact that this mom passed her antibodies on to her baby isn't exactly a new thing.

"We know this happens with other vaccines as well," he said.

But it is a potentially exciting development.

"For the first couple months, they can rely on mom's antibodies, but after that, their own immune system will have to start working, so they'll develop its own," he said.

Though Hawkes says it will take more time and study, he's hopeful that it could mean more moms will get the shot.

"We're probably going to see more increased acceptance of vaccinating pregnant women with the COVID-19 vaccine," said Hawkes.

So, where does that leave Smith? As for now, that jury is still out.

"That sounds like a beautiful miracle, but I am still worried, because what if I am part of that 1%," said Smith.

This story was originally published by Rochelle Alleyne at WFTX.