Study: Pfizer, Moderna COVID vaccines effective for pregnant, breastfeeding individuals

Rachel Grumman Bender
·3 min read
African American female doctor preparing a pregnant woman for vaccination. Pregnant woman getting a covid-19 vaccine.
Pfizer, Moderna COVID vaccines effective for pregnant, breastfeeding individuals, a new study reveals. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In the study, researchers looked at 131 women of reproductive age (84 pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant), who received either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, and found that the pregnant and breastfeeding women showed a “robust” immune response to the vaccines. According to the study, the immune responses from the vaccines were “significantly greater” than the responses to natural COVID-19 infections. In addition, any side effects after vaccination were “rare and comparable across the study participants,” according to EurekaAlert.

"These vaccines seem to work incredibly effectively in these women," one of the study authors, Galit Alter, Ph.D., a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a group leader at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, told CNN. (Yahoo Life reached out to the study authors but did not receive a timely response.)

Related video: Early studies show vaccinated mothers pass antibodies to babies

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who are vaccinated may also help protect their babies as well. The antibodies generated by the vaccine were found in all umbilical cord blood and breastmilk samples. “The recent study released by the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology demonstrated that when a pregnant or lactating individual is vaccinated, the immune response that they produce and the antibodies that are developed are transferred to their newborn and with it, the newborn’s immune protection is likely supported,” Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (who was not involved in the study), tells Yahoo Life.

Given that “there is no approved vaccine for newborns and young children and the fact that the vaccine is still in shorter supply than needed to meet current demands, this study provides an opportunity to inoculate newborns without further depleting vaccine supplies,” says Gonsenhauser.

Pregnant people have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to those who aren’t pregnant. They also have an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The impact of COVID19 cannot be understated,” says Gonsenhauser. “From loss of life, disruption of the economy and dangerously stretched healthcare capacity, the impact has been staggering. While adults have been primarily affected by COVID-19, we know that individuals of all ages are at risk. While we have seen young children affected, we have yet to fully understand the potential impact on newborns. Given the increasingly clear safety profile of the available vaccines, the benefit of the protection provided by the vaccine far outweighs the risk of complications or side effects of vaccination.”

For people who are pregnant or lactating and may be hesitant to get the vaccine, the CDC notes that both Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines that “do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 and, therefore, cannot give someone COVID-19. Additionally, mRNA vaccines do not interact with a person’s DNA or cause genetic changes because the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.” (You can learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work here).

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, Gonsenhauser suggests considering “where your information is coming from and be sure it is from a reputable and appropriately competent source.” He adds: “There is a lot of misinformation out there, but at this point there is overwhelming evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for pregnant and lactating women. If you are still hesitant, talk to a healthcare provider whom you trust. The science and data are clear.”

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