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COVID-19: New Variant Names; Vaccinating Pregnant People

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced new names for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The new names — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta — use the Greek alphabet for colloquial reference to the variants of concern, which also have scientific names assigned by Pango, GISAID, and Nextstrain databases. By assigning these names, WHO leaders hope to avoid the use of geographic location of origin to refer to virus variants, which can be stigmatizing.

NIH Studies Confirm mRNA Vaccines Safe for Pregnant People

Two studies supported by the National Institutes of Health show molecular ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines are safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A Boston-based study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed 30 pregnant women, 16 breastfeeding women, and 57 women who were neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. The vaccine was well tolerated, and some women in each group experienced a brief fever after the second vaccine dose. After vaccination, all women produced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 that neutralized variants of concern. Researchers also found antibodies in infant cord blood and breast milk, suggesting they are passed on to infants.

A second study, based in Chicago and published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, followed 84 women who received mRNA vaccines during pregnancy and found no negative effects of vaccination on the placenta. Vaccinated pregnant women in this study also produced antibody levels.

Moderna Releases Results of Vaccine Study in Teens

Moderna announced May 25 the end of its TeenCOVE study of the COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents ages 12 to less than 18 years old. Using the primary definition of a COVID-19 case, no cases of COVID-19 were observed after two vaccine doses, consistent with a vaccine efficacy of 100 percent. Moderna plans to submit its data to regulatory agencies in early June.

HHS Updates COVID-19 Reporting Guidance

The Department of Health and Human Services on May 27 updated its COVID-19 data reporting guidance for hospitals, hospital laboratories, and acute care facilities.

Effective June 10, influenza fields 33–38 are optional; these fields could become mandatory again after Oct. 1. Consistent with the April 16 Food and Drug Administration revocation of the emergency use authorization for bamlanivimab administered alone, fields for inventory and usage for Therapeutic B are now optional.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Emily Schweich is a senior communications associate for America's Essential Hospitals.

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