COVID-19 vaccine protects mothers — and their newborns

Pregnant women show robust immune response to coronavirus vaccines, pass antibodies to newborns

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard have found the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to be highly effective in producing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in pregnant and lactating women. The study also demonstrated the vaccines confer protective immunity to newborns through breast milk and the placenta.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), looked at 131 women of reproductive age (84 pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant), all of whom received one of the two new mRNA vaccines: Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. The vaccine-induced titers — or antibody levels — were equivalent in all three groups. Reassuringly, side effects after vaccination were rare and comparable across the study participants. 

“This news of excellent vaccine efficacy is very encouraging for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who were left out of the initial COVID-19 vaccine trials,” said Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at MGH, director of the Edlow Lab in the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology and co-senior author of the new study. “Filling in the information gaps with real data is key — especially for our pregnant patients who are at greater risk for complications from COVID-19. This study also highlights how eager pregnant and lactating individuals are to participate in research.”

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