What to know about COVID-19 antibodies and babies

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A south Florida woman made headlines earlier this month when she gave birth to what is believed to be the first baby born in the U.S. with COVID-19 antibodies.

The woman received one vaccine shot while 36 weeks pregnant, and when doctors tested the blood from the umbilical cord, it came back positive for antibodies.

"This is why babies completely depend on that maternal immunity in the first few months of life," said Dr. Flor Munoz, associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine. "The baby's immune system is sometimes slower in responding to different vaccines."

Dr. Munoz explains the female body is designed to pass along any antibodies from her body to the baby. This can come from any prior illnesses or from vaccine shots like the flu or tetanus.

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There's reassuring news for pregnant women who are unsure if they should get the vaccine. A partially vaccinated mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl with COVID antibodies.

What's unclear about the COVID-19 antibodies is how long the immunity may last, and how much protection it will provide for a baby.

Nonetheless, doctors are now researching to gather more answers about whether this may be an option for how to protect expectant mothers and newborn infants from the virus.

Munoz explains vaccinations for pregnant women ensure they remain healthy through delivery. As an added bonus, vaccinations help protect babies in the first few months with those antibodies.

"Having had the illness or getting vaccinated could result in antibodies present in the breast milk," Dr. Munoz said.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 shot has been deemed safe for pregnant women. Consult your doctor when making health decisions.

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