Research Discovers Vaccinating Women Against COVID-19 Passes Antibodies to Unborn Babies

April 9, 2021 13:41:41

Researchers from Harvard, MIT, the Ragon Institute of MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital recently conducted a study that discovered that the new mRNA coronavirus vaccines were highly efficacious in producing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in lactating and pregnant women. The researchers also showed that the vaccines offered protective immunity to newborns through the placenta and breast milk.

Their findings were reported in the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology” and observed 131 women, 16 of whom weren’t pregnant, 31 who were lactating and 84 who were pregnant, all of reproductive age. All the study participants received one of the two new mRNA vaccines: Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech. The antibodies were found to be equal in all three groups. Additionally, any side effects observed after the vaccines had been administered were comparable and rare across the participants.

The co-senior author of the study, who is also a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at MGH, Andrea Edlow stated that these findings on vaccine effectiveness were encouraging for breastfeeding and pregnant women who had been excluded from the preliminary coronavirus vaccine trials. She added that having real data to fill information gaps was important, particularly for pregnant patients who have a greater risk of complications resulting from a coronavirus infection. Edlow noted that the study also called attention to how eager lactating and pregnant individuals were to take part in research.

According to the CDC, pregnant women have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill after contracting the coronavirus, and they may need to be hospitalized in addition to requiring ventilation or intensive care. Furthermore, they have a higher risk for unfavorable pregnancy outcomes.

The researchers compared antibody levels that were produced by natural infection with the coronavirus in pregnancy to antibody levels that were induced by vaccination and discovered considerably higher antibody levels from vaccination. They also found that antibodies generated from vaccines were present in all breast milk and umbilical cord blood samples collected for the study, which demonstrates the transfer of antibodies to newborns from their mothers.

Another co-senior author of the study, Galit Alter, stated that the group’s findings constitute evidence that the coronavirus vaccines can give rise to immunity that protects infants. Alter noted that they hoped the study would encourage developers of vaccines to acknowledge the importance of studying lactating and pregnant individuals and including them in trials.

The study also found that the levels of IgA antibodies were higher after the second Moderna dose was administered, in comparison to the second Pfizer dose.

The study’s first author Kathryn Gray asserted that their findings were important for all individuals, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus was contracted through mucosal surfaces such as the eyes, mouth and nose.

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