February 18, 2022

Mandate Minute: Week 13

BY Dee Pekruhn

This Week’s Highlights:

Volume Twenty-Two: Air Date 2.14.22. “Mask Mandates – Is the Love Affair is Over?”

In honor of Valentines’ Day, I tried to find news related to the intersection of love and mandates (not as easy as you might think,) and I’ve landed on: masks. I hesitate to say this in front of Jodi, who is our number one champion and expert on all things masking but: the love affair with mask mandates may be coming to an end.

First, I read in the New York Times this morning that Joe Biden is urging the states not to abandon their indoor masking mandates, even as both Nevada and New York, among others, prepare to do so. Then, mid-day, we heard an announcement that D.C. is going to relax both its indoor masking and vaccine mandates for businesses. Described as a “rare, swift change of heart in Virginia politics,” I then found that Gov. Youngkin is working with the VA General Assembly to drop mask mandates in schools. And before you wonder if this is just a U.S. phenomenon, rest assured, even our close neighbors are seeing this trend. Several provinces in Canada – where vaccine acceptance has been comparatively very high and mandates much stricter than in the US – have announced within the last week that they will drop both masking and vaccine mandates.

As it stands now, only six states – Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Illinois – and then Puerto Rico and the District – have universal masking mandates statewide. Of those, California, DC, Illinois, and Oregon will terminate or allow their mask mandates to expire. However, across the country, several cities and counties plan to retain and reinforce their masking mandates; Camden, NJ, Boston, New Haven, CT, LA and Santa Clara in CA are a few examples. This will make for a confusing landscape ahead, even within each state, to know where you are and are not required to wear a mask. Also, for now, the CDC’s Order from 2021 that all people on indoor public transportation conveyances and hubs (planes, trains, etc.) wear masks still stands.

The bottom line? As in love, it is the same in masking: ultimately, it is up to each individual to make the right choice for themselves, and we hope you will chose to love your mask.

Volume Twenty-Three: Air Date 2.16.22. “Maternal Immunization”

As we look at reasons to get vaccinated – here is something you will want to know and share. Infants whose mothers were vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy had significant protection against hospitalization for the disease, according to a new CDC report.

Babies younger than 6 months old who were born to mothers who completed a two-dose mRNA vaccination series during pregnancy were 61% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 reported Natasha B. Halasa, MD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues.

Vaccine effectiveness was highest when mothers were immunized later in pregnancy, they noted in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

  • First 20 weeks of pregnancy: 32% (95% CI -43 to 68)
  • After 21 weeks’ gestation: 80% (95% CI 55-91)

“The bottom line is that maternal vaccination is a really important way to help protect these young infants,” said Dana Meaney-Delman, chief of the CDC’s Infant Outcomes Monitoring Research and Prevention Branch. While previous research has shown that COVID-19 antibodies can cross the placenta, this study provides real-world evidence that they can protect babies against severe illness.

She underscored the risk of severe COVID-19 illness during pregnancy, stating that it is important for pregnant people to get vaccinated at any point in pregnancy to protect themselves. The CDC recommends that people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant get vaccinated and stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 immunizations.

In this study, Halasa’s group assessed maternal vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization for their newborn infants, comparing maternal characteristics among infants hospitalized for COVID and those hospitalized for other reasons. Among the 176 infants who were hospitalized with COVID-19, 84% were born to mothers who were not vaccinated; 43 were admitted to the ICU, and 25 developed critical illness and received life support. One infant received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and one died (the mothers in both of these cases were not vaccinated).

Halasa and colleagues acknowledged that vaccine effectiveness could not be assessed directly against specific variants in this study, and the sample size was too small to assess vaccine effectiveness based on the trimester it was administered.