Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Boost Immune Responses in Pregnant and Nursing Moms

Pregnant women with COVID-19 have a higher risk of intensive care admissions, mechanical ventilation and death compared to women who are not pregnant. That’s why a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is so important.

The researchers found that either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines elicited a robust immune response in pregnant and lactating women. Even more exciting is the news that the antibodies to the virus were passed on to their infants.

According to The Boston Globe, the study was published Thursday in the journal JAMA. Previous research that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine a few weeks ago found that both two-dose mRNA vaccines were safe for pregnant women and did not trigger an increase of complications such as miscarriage or premature birth.

”Together with the safety data that has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine paper, these data support the use of these vaccines in the important populations of pregnant women and lactating women,” said Dr. Dan H. Barouch, senior author of the new study, and the director of the Center for Virology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Further analysis found that maternal vaccine antibodies were transferred into infant cord blood and breast milk, according to Newswise.

”Our study supports the use of vaccines in pregnant and lactating individuals,” said Dr. Ai-Ris Y. Collier, another of the BIDCM researchers. ”The vaccine-elicited antibodies we detected in both infant cord blood and breast milk suggest that vaccinating pregnant mothers may potentially protect infants from COVID-19 infections.”

Dr. Collier added that future research could determine the best time to vaccinate these women to optimize the delivery of antibodies through the placenta and breast milk to newborns.

According to the Globe, Beth Israel researchers studied the immune responses of 103 women who were between the ages of 18 and 45. The study subjects received either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine from December 2020 through March of this year. The women donated blood and, in some cases, breast milk for the study. Thirty were pregnant, 16 were nursing, and 57 were neither pregnant nor nursing.

”I liken pregnancy to an organ transplant,” said Dr. Collier, according to the Globe. ”The fetus and placenta have genetic components from both the mom and the father, so there has to be changes in the immune system to prevent outright rejection and to promote fetal growth and survival.”

The new study bolsters evidence published in March in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. According to NBC News, researchers also found the mother’s antibodies were present in their baby’s umbilical cord blood and in breast milk, suggesting that immunity is passed on from moms to their offspring. Experts say these findings are of utmost clinical importance since pregnant women were excluded from the trials of vaccines now available and there is little data on their efficacy in this population.

Dr. Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that the evidence paves the way for pregnant women and new moms to feel safe getting vaccinated for COVID-19, knowing they are protecting themselves and their babies.

”So all the information that we have so far suggests that the COVID-19 vaccine, similar to other vaccines, can help protect babies by passing into breast milk and passing into the umbilical cord as well,” she said, according to an interview that aired on CBS News, adding that we don’t know how long that immunity will last.

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