Timing of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy and transplacental antibody transfer: a prospective cohort study

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2022 Mar;28(3):419-425. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2021.10.003. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


Objective: We aimed to assess the impact of early versus late third-trimester maternal severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccination on transplacental transfer and neonatal levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

Methods: Maternal and cord blood sera were collected following term delivery after antenatal SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 mRNA vaccination, with the first vaccine dose administered between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation. SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (S) and receptor-binding domain (RBD) -specific, IgG levels and neutralizing potency were evaluated in maternal and cord blood samples.

Results: The study cohort consisted of 171 parturients-median age 31 years (interquartile range (IQR) 27-35 years); median gestational age 39+5 weeks (IQR 38+5-40+4 weeks)-83 (48.5%) were immunized in early thrird-trimester (first dose at 27-31 weeks) and 88 (51.5%) were immunized in late third trimester (first dose at 32-36 weeks). All mother-infant paired sera were positive for anti S- and anti-RBD-specific IgG. Anti-RBD-specific IgG concentrations in neonatal sera were higher following early versus late third-trimester vaccination (median 9620 AU/mL (IQR 5131-15332 AU/mL) versus 6697 AU/mL (IQR 3157-14731 AU/mL), p 0.02), and were positively correlated with increasing time since vaccination (r = 0.26; p 0.001). Median antibody placental transfer ratios were increased following early versus late third-trimester immunization (anti-S ratio: 1.3 (IQR 1.1-1.6) versus 0.9 (IQR 0.6-1.1); anti-RBD-specific ratio: 2.3 (IQR 1.7-3.0) versus 0.7 (IQR 0.5-1.2), p < 0.001). Neutralizing antibodies placental transfer ratio was greater following early versus late third-trimester immunization (median 1.9 (IQR 1.7-2.5) versus 0.8 (IQR 0.5-1.1), p < 0.001), and was positively associated with longer duration from vaccination (r = 0.77; p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Early compared with late third-trimester maternal SARS-CoV-2 immunization enhanced transplacental antibody transfer and increased neonatal neutralizing antibody levels. Our findings highlight that vaccination of pregnant women early in the third trimester may enhance neonatal seroprotection.

Keywords: Cord blood; Coronavirus disease 2019; Passive immunity; Pregnancy; Serology; Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; Vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • BNT162 Vaccine
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Placenta
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Vaccination


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • BNT162 Vaccine