Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital was part of an international study that looked at how vaccines reduced COVID-19 risks for pregnant women, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The research, published in the journal Lancet, was conducted among more than 1,500 pregnant women diagnosed with COVID – along with just over 3,000 pregnant women not diagnosed with COVID as controls – at 41 hospitals across 18 countries between November 2021 and June 2022, according to a news release from the Lancet.
Vaccinated women were “well protected” against severe COVID symptoms and complications, especially those who had the mRNA vaccines or received a booster dose, Lancet officials said in the release.
The study found symptomatic, unvaccinated women were at an increased risk of maternal morbidity, pregnancy complications, and COVID-related hospital admission, according to the release.
Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital became involved in the study when Dr. Jagjit Teji, neonatologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, approached officials about supporting the research with Huntley hospital data, said Huntley Hospital’s chief nurse executive, Kim Armour.
“I constantly look at the science to drive our care,” Armour said. “This was a huge honor for all of us to be involved, to work with Lurie colleagues and be noted in the Lancet.”
Armour said this was more than just an academic issue for her and her family, as she had a daughter-in-law expectant twice during the pandemic period.
“Without randomized prospective work in this space, women are being asked to take a vaccine, but they don’t know it will affect their bodies or their unborn baby, or at different life stages,” Armour said.
The long-term impact, unfortunately, is something that will take another five to 20 years to learn about, Armour said, noting the study was one of the first on the issue of pregnant women and COVID vaccines.
Northwestern Medicine officials aim to make sure the research is disseminated to providers and pregnant women in the Chicago area, Armour said.
“The study clearly indicates the need for a complete vaccination course during pregnancy,” University of Oxford professor Jose Villar said in the release.
Another Oxford professor, Aris Papageorghiou, noted in the release that the risks of being unvaccinated still applied even with the relatively less harmful omicron variant and the unpredictability of who ended up getting the worse symptoms after contracting the virus.
“Unfortunately, full vaccination coverage among pregnant women is still inadequate even in developed countries,” Papageorghiou said in the release.
There is still a need to convince the general public to trust research findings and COVID data, Armour said.
“Somewhere along the line, politics, medicine and science started getting intertwined,” Armour said. “People need to come back to the basics and make their decisions based on data-supported science, recommendations of treatment and plan of care.”
Lurie Children’s study participants were recruited from Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital’s Maternal, Newborn and Intermediate Care Nursery areas where Lurie Children’s neonatologists provide coverage, officials said in the release.