Nursing moms with COVID-19 vaccination could pass protection to babies
The University of Florida recently published a study that suggests mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 may be able to pass along protection against infection to their nursing babies. Further research is needed but doctors believe the breast milk could be beneficial to the tykes.
“A lot of moms, pregnant women, are afraid to get vaccinated. They want to do what’s best for their babies. This is something that we wanted to know whether it may actually provide some benefit,” stated Dr. Josef Neu, a co-author of the study and professor in the UF College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Division of Neonatology .
“Milk is a dynamic substance. So in other words, what the baby and the mom (are) exposed to in the environment, there are changes in the milk that correspond to these environmental conditions. And these can then specifically help the baby,” Neu further explained.
Joseph Larkin III, a senior author of the study and associate professor in the university’s Department of Microbiology and Cell Science also explained since babies are born with undeveloped immune systems and too young to get the vaccine, breast milk from vaccinated mothers can be altered to potentially improve their vulnerability. The study published by the University of Florida began last December when vaccines first became available to health care workers.
Researchers used the blood and breast milk of 21 lactating mothers who worked in health care and volunteered to participate in the study. The mothers had never had the COVID-19 virus and were eligible to receive the vaccine. The mothers were eligible to be vaccinated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and were tested three times. They were tested before vaccination, after the first dose and following the second shot with series completion.
The research also revealed that in breast milk specifically, after the second dose, there was a pronounced 100-fold increase of immunoglobulin A antibodies and the antibodies remain present even if the breastmilk is frozen and stored. Other studies surrounding pregnant women have shown that antibodies produced by vaccinated pregnant women are passed to the fetus through the umbilical cord blood as well.
“By just them becoming vaccinated, they are already helping the baby,” Larkin added.
The University of Florida study didn’t answer if antibodies found in breast milk and passed on to babies provide protection or in what amount, but research is still being conducted.