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A key effort to bolster emergency preparedness in maternal and child health infrastructure in Massachusetts is the Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Moms and Babies Network (SET-NET). This surveillance system is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) effort to rapidly identify the impact of emerging health threats to pregnant persons and their infants.

COVID-19 in Pregnancy InfographicThis surveillance effort builds upon the US Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry, which, in MA, involved a collaboration between the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and Laboratory Sciences (BIDLS) and the Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention of the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition. Massachusetts had planned a mother-baby linked longitudinal surveillance of Hepatitis C, led by BIDLS. When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the infrastructure was quickly adapted to collect data on pregnant persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 to assess the health impacts of COVID-19 on pregnant persons and their babies. This effort has been led by the Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. The Hepatitis C work will resume once COVID-19 activity stabilizes.

Important findings of Mother-Baby COVID-19 Surveillance:  Studies have shown that pregnant people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are at increased risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant people. After reviewing the state-wide SET-NET data on pregnant persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Massachusetts, the Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention observed a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic pregnant people in Massachusetts. Specifically, 67% of pregnant persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 are Hispanic or Black, non-Hispanic, even though these populations, together, account for just 30% of the birth population in MA. In other words, compared to White, non-Hispanic pregnant people, Hispanic pregnant people are 6X more likely to have COVID-19 and Black, non-Hispanic pregnant people are 4X more likely to have COVID-19.

This type of public health surveillance allows the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to monitor and understand the impact of new and emerging health threats, like COVID-19, on pregnant persons and their babies. The availability of these data allows for evidence-based, actionable information to improve the lives and meet the needs of mothers and babies during emergencies. For example, infographics with surveillance data, such as the one below, can be used to relay prevention messaging to those most impacted by COVID-19.

As we develop and promote vaccination programs, these data become crucial for public health experts in understanding who is at elevated risk for COVID-19 in pregnancy and for whom prevention messaging and vaccination allocation should be prioritized. This information is also helpful for healthcare providers in counseling patients on weighing the known risks of COVID-19 against available information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines in these patient populations.

The SET-NET effort has built the infrastructure and knowledge base to allow the Department to rapidly, flexibly and nimbly monitor, assess and respond to the next emerging threat to mothers and babies.

Written By:


of the DPH Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition

of the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition

State Epidemiologist and State Public Health Veterinarian

of the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition

of the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition

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