A new study found that vaccinated moms who are breastfeeding their infants can transfer antibodies to their offspring.
According to Healthline, the Israeli study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that a COVID-19 shot triggers the antibody production in breast milk for up to six weeks after vaccination.
Experts told Healthline that the results of the study were “incredibly encouraging,” adding that it is a win-win situation.
“We start by giving moms protection that we hope lasts and that they can pass on to the baby. And it looks like that’s what’s going on,” said Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and the chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
The Israeli study took place between December 23 and January 15 and involved 84 women who received the standard two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers collected breast milk before the women were vaccinated and then each week after inoculation. They noted that two weeks after the initial dose, the levels of IgA antibodies, specific to SARS-CoV-2 were elevated in the milk. The levels also spiked after the second dose, according to Healthline.
There were some side effects among the babies after their mothers were vaccinated. They included cough, fever, and congestion. One infant needed antibiotics to clear up the symptoms but the other three got better without treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that pregnant women and those who are breast feeding should have a personal conversation with their healthcare professionals about getting vaccinated. The CDC points out that pregnant women are at greater risk for severe illness and complications from COVID-19 and adds that the vaccines are not considered to be a risk to infants during pregnancy and breastfeeding, per Healthline.
Another study by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis also found that nursing mothers who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine protected their babies from the virus.
“Our study showed a huge boost in antibodies against the COVID-19 virus in breast milk starting two weeks after the first shot, and this response was sustained for the course of our study, which was about three months long,” said Dr. Jeannie Kelly, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and the lead author of the Washington University study. “The antibody levels were still high at the end of our study, so the protection likely extends even longer.”
Dr. Fisher encourages her pregnant and nursing patients to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Get vaccinated because even a tiny fraction of protection is better than none,” says Fisher. “And there’s no vaccine for babes at this time. And we know how incredibly valuable breast milk is. You can’t get this protection from formula.”
Fisher says that although the Israeli study focused on the Pfizer-BioNTech drug, since the Moderna vaccine is based on similar mRNA technology, it will probably work as well to provide immunity to babies through breast milk. Although we do not know how long this immunity lasts, just as we don’t know who long the current vaccines impart immunity to adults, “we just have to be patient,” she said.
“I can confidently say to patients that I highly recommend vaccines for everybody, especially pregnant and breastfeeding moms,” said Fisher.
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