Viral Variants: Does Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine Protect You from COVID-19 Variants?

Vaccines help protect us from serious diseases. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can protect you and your baby from getting very sick from the virus. New research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available offer protection against different types of the COVID-19 virus, called variants.

The COVID-19 virus can have serious, life-threatening complications. Pregnant people are at higher risk for serious illness with COVID-19. Pregnant people who get the virus also may be at a higher risk for pregnancy problems, such as preterm birth.

At least three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Several more are under development. All of the current vaccines give the body’s cells instructions that help the immune system fight COVID-19.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding people get the COVID-19 vaccine.

What is a variant?

When viruses grow, they go through genetic changes that may create other versions of the same virus. These are called variants. Sometimes virus variants are weaker than the original virus, and sometimes the variant is stronger. There are several variants of the COVID-19 virus, including the Alpha variant and the Delta variant. Experts are particularly concerned about the Delta variant spreading.

What do we know about the Delta variant?

  • The Delta variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus.
  • It may cause more severe symptoms in people who are not vaccinated.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are important for limiting the spread of the virus and its variants. The vaccines that are available protect against Delta and other known variants. They are very effective in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. As of now, research has shown that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 in pregnant people. 
  • Because the Delta variant is spreading, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using additional prevention strategies against COVID-19 and its variants. This includes wearing face masks inside in public places where transmission rates are high, even if you’re fully vaccinated.
  • New evidence shows that in some cases, vaccinated people can get the Delta variant. When a vaccinated person gets infected, it’s called a breakthrough infection. These breakthrough infections are usually milder forms of the COVID -19 infections and usually resolve without hospitalization.  The Delta variant is mostly spreading among unvaccinated people.
  • Vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections with symptoms can spread the virus to others, but the greatest risk is among those who are not vaccinated.
  • Vaccinated people who get infected with the delta variant may be contagious, but appear to be for a shorter period of time than those who are unvaccinated.

Early research has compared pregnant people who were hospitalized during the months when the Alpha variant or the Delta variant was most, to those hospitalized with the original virus. Results showed more severe symptoms and more pregnancy problems for those hospitalized when the Alpha and Delta variants were more common.

What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Prevents you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19
  • May prevent you from spreading the COVID-19 virus to other people
  • If you have a COVID-19 infection after vaccination it will usually be a milder form of the disease
  • Prevents the COVID-19 virus from spreading and replicating, which can create more variants of the virus and possibly make it more resistant to vaccines
  • If you get vaccinated during pregnancy, you can pass protection from COVID-19 to your baby.
  • If you get vaccinated while you are breastfeeding it can protects you and your baby from COVID-19.

It is also important that any friends or family who will be around your newborn get vaccinated to help prevent your baby from being exposed to the virus.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

Get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available to you. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that pregnant and lactating people get the COVID-19 vaccine. Ask your provider any questions you may have about the COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no COVID-19 vaccine approved for babies or children under 12 at this time. However, recent research has shown that pregnant people who get the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy can pass protective COVID-19 antibodies to their babies. Studies also have shown that the breastmilk of people who get the vaccine may contain COVID-19 antibodies. These antibodies help protect your baby from COVID-19.

Make sure your vaccinations are current before you get pregnant.

For more information as new guidelines develop related to COVID-19 variants, visit cdc.gov/covid-19

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