Pregnant female sitting on a couch after covid-19 vaccination

A world-first Murdoch Children’s Research Institute GenV project has secured State Government funding to advance research and boost confidence in COVID-19 and influenza vaccine safety during pregnancy. 

The GenV Maternal Vaccine Study, which has received $685,000 from the government and was announced recently by Medical Research Minister Jaala Pulford at the one-year GenV anniversary at Werribee Mercy Hospital, will explore COVID-19 and influenza vaccine safety by examining data on pregnancy and infant outcomes in the first-year of life.

The large-scale study of 20,000 mothers and their babies will deliver rapid results and provide data on the longer-term health and developmental outcomes following maternal vaccination for women, antenatal care providers and policy makers. 

The funding news comes as GenV, the world’s largest-ever birth and parent cohort study tracking the health and wellbeing of Victorians, from birth to old age, has delivered a recruitment milestone of more than 22,000 babies since launching a year ago.

All up, almost 60,000 babies, mothers and fathers have joined the study, which is recruiting in every birthday hospital across the state. GenV aims to better understand and treat the causes of modern childhood health problems such as obesity, asthma, autism, food allergies and mental illness.

Associate Professor Margie Danchin welcomed the funding and said many women held concerns about maternal vaccinations or subsequent infant complications and remained under-vaccinated and vulnerable. 

“Communicating these research findings to pregnant women, their families and health-care providers will build vaccine confidence and ensure high maternal vaccine uptake, which would protect women and babies against these respiratory infections,” she said.

Associate Professor Danchin, Professor Jim Buttery and their team will also study a subset of 300 mother-infant pairs in more detail to understand how maternal vaccination protects both mothers and babies by analysing breast milk and serum in the first six months of life.

“The research will not only ensure pregnant women and their infants are receiving the best protection against influenza and COVID-19 infection but also inform future pandemic planning, which has become increasingly important,” she said. Victoria already has the strongest vaccine safety reporting in Australia- this study will strengthen this even further.”

 Associate Professor Danchin said she hoped this study would also help women make informed decisions about vaccination during pregnancy.

GenV is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne and is funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, the Victorian Government and The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.