As of last month, the United States reported over 82,000 COVID infections among pregnant women and 90 maternal deaths from the virus. And there is little data on the safety and efficacy of the currently available vaccines in pregnant women.
Now, a study, published in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has shown the vaccines are safe as well as effective for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Also, the study found that the vaccines may even offer some protection for babies.
OB/GYN Dr. Judette Louis, who until recently served as president of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, said, “It’s a very important study. People have been trying to piece together as much information as they can and this study says, OK there is a benefit.”
Lead author Dr. Kathryn Gray said people were eager to take part, although the study was conducted on 131 participants.
She said, “People were just volunteering to give us any sort of sample that they could to try to help generate data.”
The participants were vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Of those, 84 were pregnant, 31 were lactating, and 16 were non-pregnant.
Dr. Gray noted, “The levels of antibodies, which is what we’re looking for in response to vaccination, were similar between the groups.”
The antibody levels in response to the vaccine were higher when researchers compared the antibody levels to those of women who had been sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy, according to NPR.
The finding “suggests that even if you’ve had COVID infection, getting the vaccine will lead to a more robust antibody response,” Dr. Gray explained.
She said side effects from the vaccine were mild among all the participants, such as soreness at the injection site after receiving the first dose and muscle aches, headache, fever, and chills after the second dose.
The researchers also noted that antibodies were also found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.
Dr. Laura Riley of New York-Presbyterian Hospital said, “If those antibodies are produced in pregnancy and while breastfeeding, the baby is clearly getting some of that.”
Referring to the flu vaccine, Dr. Riley said it produces antibodies that cross the placenta and are “protective for the baby for the first several months of life” when given during pregnancy.
Similarly, she hopes the COVID vaccine will do the same, although she cautioned that it is unclear if the COVID vaccine will protect the baby from getting sick or how long that protection would last. However, she said, “It’s certainly nice to see that there is protection.”
The current study has shown promising results, but Dr. Riley said more studies are required. The article was published Friday on NPR.