Pregnant women who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are able to transfer the immunity to their babies in the womb and through breastfeeding. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard made this discovery in the largest study of its kind.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 131 women of reproductive age who had received either Pfizer or Moderna vaccine were monitored. In the group of 131, 84 were pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 were not pregnant. Antibody levels were equal in every woman and there were minimal side effects.
Vaccine-generated antibodies were also present in all umbilical cord blood and breast milk samples taken from the study, showing the transfer of antibodies from mothers to newborns.
Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at MGH, director of the Edlow Lab in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology and co-senior author of the new study said, ‘This news of excellent vaccine efficacy is very encouraging for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who were left out of the initial COVID-19 vaccine trials. Filling in the information gaps with real data is key — especially for our pregnant patients who are at greater risk for complications from COVID-19. This study also highlights how eager pregnant and lactating individuals are to participate in research.’
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are pregnant are more likely to become severely ill with COVID-19, require hospitalization, intensive care or ventilation — and may be at increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. The team also compared vaccination-induced antibody levels to those induced by natural infection with COVID-19 in pregnancy, and found significantly higher levels of antibodies from vaccination.
Why Pfizer and Moderna
Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19, hence They cannot give someone COVID-19. Hence, those vaccinated gain protection without having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle and instruct the cells to make the protein piece.
Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.