Some newly born babies are testing positive to COVID-19 hours after birth despite several studies showing that newborns wouldn’t contract the virus from their mothers.
Dr Lawrence Kazibwe, a Senior Obstetrician at Kawempe National Referral Hospital, says that while the majority of mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 at the height of the second wave delivered babies free from the viral respiratory disease, some babies suddenly tested positive only hours after delivery.
He says that they recorded three of such cases where the two newborns tested positive 24 hours later delivery and the other at the Mulago Specialised Women’s hospital tested positive after 72 hours, something he attributes to negligence by the caretakers.
Dr Lawrence Kazibwe, who doubles as the Deputy Director of Kawempe hospital, says that investigations are still ongoing to rule out the possibility of the babies contracting COVID-19 infection at birth.
He also says that they have had to change their admission criteria whereby mothers who test positive during antenatal visits are either sent back for home-based care or are referred to Mulago hospital COVID-19 treatment centre.
However, as experts delve into analyzing the cases, Dr Deogratias Munube says babies have very low immunity and can quickly get infected if barriers such as hand hygiene and masking are not introduced as early as possible.
Noting that while babies who catch COVID-19 are largely asymptomatic, he says some especially newborns become irritable and get a fever. Recent studies have shown that the transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding has a less than 5% chance.
On her part, Dr Victoria Nakibuuka, a Neonatologist at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya advises COVID-19 positive mothers who can express milk to do so. She, however, says breastfeeding shouldn’t stop just because the mother is scared of transmitting infection.
She says at Nsambya hospital, they are in the process of setting a human milk bank where babies who can’t access their mothers can continue feeding on human milk.
To be on the safest side, however, experts are pushing for the inclusion of pregnant mothers among the key populations prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination. Kazibwe for instance says a vaccine is generally safe for mothers in their second and third trimesters.