ATLANTA (CNN) – The Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are effective in pregnant and lactating women, who can transmit protective antibodies to newborns, according to research published Thursday in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Ragon Institute at MGH, MIT, and Harvard looked at 131 women who received the Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Among the participants, 84 were pregnant, 31 were lactating, and 16 were not pregnant. The samples were collected between December 17, 2020 and March 2, 2021.
Vaccine-induced antibody levels were equivalent in pregnant and lactating women compared to non-pregnant women. Antibody levels were “surprisingly higher” than those resulting from coronavirus infection during pregnancy, the team noted.
“These vaccines appear to work incredibly effectively in these women,” said one of the researchers, Galit Alter, a professor of medicine at the Ragon Institute.
In addition, the team found that women transmitted protective antibodies to their newborns, measured in breast milk and the placenta.
“Almost all the moms were getting a pretty decent level of antibodies against their babies,” Alter said, adding that additional research is needed to understand how long those protective antibodies last in newborns.
Participants used the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s V-safe tool, which allows people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to track their reaction. Alter said they found no evidence of more side effects or more intense side effects in pregnant and lactating women than in the general population.
While the team found similar antibody levels in women vaccinated with both vaccines, Alter said they found higher levels of IgA antibodies in pregnant women who received the Moderna vaccine. She said that this particular type of antibody can be transferred more efficiently to babies, over a longer period of time.
“There is some reason to think that having higher levels of IgA immunity might be more protective,” Alter noted. He said further research on this finding could help inform policy decisions about which vaccines are used for pregnant populations.
Recent research similarly found that mRNA vaccines elicit antibodies in pregnant women that can be transferred to their babies, although this is the largest study of vaccines in pregnant women to date. Pregnant and lactating women were not included in the initial clinical trials of the vaccines.
This is an urgent need, because we are not only protecting one person in this vaccination effort, we are protecting two people at the same time.
–Galit Alter, Ragon Institute Professor of Medicine
With no data to help inform pregnant women’s decisions about vaccination against COVID-19, Alter said researchers and new and expectant mothers, particularly health workers, came together to fill the gap.
“MGH and Brigham started talking to healthcare workers who were eligible for vaccination, who were also pregnant, and created a study to empower pregnant women with the ability to track their responses, but also to develop data that essentially They could help Everyone approaches vaccination and pregnancy for the first time in this collective way.
“He really was a force to be reckoned with, both from an OB / GYN / provider perspective, as well as from the community,” Alter said. “It was inspiring.”
According to the CDC, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk for serious illness and may be at increased risk for adverse outcomes, such as preterm delivery. The CDC says it hopes to study vaccine safety in about 13,000 pregnant people for each of the three licensed coronavirus vaccines. The agency will use a specific V-safe pregnancy registry, which had enrolled about 3,612 pregnant women, as of March 22.
“This is an urgent need, because we are not only protecting one person in this vaccination effort, we are protecting two people at the same time,” Alter said.
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