Pregnant women were excluded from clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine, therefore, there has been limited data around the safety of the vaccine for women during pregnancy.
However, a recent study led by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at how the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines affect pregnant and lactating women and found that these vaccines are safe for breastfeeding and pregnant moms.
Researchers looked at how COVID-19 vaccines affected 84 pregnant people, 31 lactating, and 16 non-pregnant people. The doses of the vaccine were distributed to pregnant participants during different trimesters, and researchers found that after being vaccinated while pregnant, lactating, and non-pregnant people had the same level of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
When it comes to what pregnant women should know about the vaccine and if they have worries about side effects, Dr. Mark Turrentine, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine explained that first, one must assess their personal risk, and COVID-19 disease is more dangerous for pregnant people. “Pregnant women are more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, placed on a mechanical ventilator, and die compared to non-pregnant people with COVID disease who are the same age.”
Although the study is small, it is helpful for those worried about taking the vaccine while pregnant or while breastfeeding. One of the researchers, Dr. Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a study co-author told NBC’s “TODAY” show, “This study is one piece of the puzzle that’s essential to try to give pregnant and lactating women evidence-based counseling around the vaccine.”
Additionally, researcher Galit Alter, a professor of medicine at the Ragon Institute said that nearly all the moms were getting a pretty decent level of antibodies to their babies.
“While it is true that pregnant women were not included in the initial vaccine trials, after an explicit, evidence-based review of all available data, several national organizations in the U.S. such the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals and COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to breast-feeding individuals similar to non-lactating individuals,” Dr. Turrentine said.
Since the offering of COVID-19 vaccines began in the U.S., the CDC V-SAFE app has reported that as of April 5, 2021, nearly 78,000 pregnant women have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Recently several descriptive studies from the U.S. have been published that have evaluated the COVID-19 vaccine response in pregnant and lactating women, Dr. Turrentine added. “Among these reports, 112 pregnant women’s immune response to the messenger RNA vaccines were evaluated. A robust immune response was noted in all pregnant women similar that seen in non-pregnant women.”
“Further, vaccine generated antibodies against the COVID-19 virus were present in umbilical cord blood samples suggesting that immune transfer to infants occurred.”
More About The Infant’s Immunity
Dr. Turrentine explained that these studies suggest that at least among women in the third trimester, the earlier the vaccination is given, the greater the infant’s immunity.
“A sub-group of 31 women breastfeeding that had received the COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated that high levels of IgG antibodies against COVID-19 were transferred to the neonate through breastmilk as well,’ he said.
Although more research is needed, the take-home message to pregnant women is that the current observations show no significant differences in post-vaccination reactions in pregnant versus non-pregnant women.
These studies show promising evidence of potential passive immunity against the COVID-19 virus in newborns (either through placental transfer or breastfeeding) after the mother receives the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, the doctor said.