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A new study has emerged that brings promising news for some of our most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic: babies.

Growing evidence has revealed that antibodies to the COVID vaccine are present in the breast milk of vaccinated mothers, meaning that vaccinated and nursing mothers can potentially provide passive immunity to the virus to their infants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and many other medical associations across the country strongly recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women and those who have been pregnant get vaccinated as soon as possible. as possible.

And as we see more and more pediatric cases accounting for a larger share of weekly COVID cases (22.4%, according to the most recent AAP data), here is yet another reason why vaccination is a good idea.

COVID-19 antibodies can pass through breast milk.

The most recent study was published in the journal Breastfeeding medicine by a team of researchers at the University of Florida, who analyzed breast milk samples from 21 breastfeeding healthcare workers who received the first Pfizer and Moderna vaccines between December 2020 and March 2021. The researchers collected samples from breast milk and mothers’ blood before vaccination, after the first dose and again after the second dose.

They found impressive levels of SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin A (IgA) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies secreted in the breast milk of women, especially after the second injection. add to promising evidence showing similar results.

Current research is very encouraging.

The study was small, but the results are very promising and in line with how we expect vaccines to work. Vaccinated mothers produced antibodies at levels high enough that they were then secreted into breast milk. Pregnant women are also urged to get the flu and pertussis vaccines during pregnancy in order to confer benefits – antibodies against disease – on their babies once born. While longer-term, larger-scale studies are definitely warranted, the results of this research make the case for adding a COVID-19 vaccine to this list in the future.

And while it is still unclear to what extent immunity to COVID-19 is conferred on breastfed children through maternal vaccination, the results are encouraging.

“We are still learning so much about breast milk and all of its benefits, and this is what makes this research so fascinating, not only for us scientists, but also for non-scientists,” says Lauren Stafford, author of the study, in ScienceDaily.

Passive immunity is not the same as being vaccinated, but it is still useful.

While passive immunity does not equate to active immunity, it does offer some protection, given what we know about how antibodies in breast milk can protect infants against other viruses.

Maternal vaccination can provide a layer of protection for breastfed babies and young children, who might otherwise not be protected. And although cases of COVID-19 in children tend to be mild, children under the age of 2 are particularly vulnerable and more likely to be hospitalized with the disease.

“Think of breast milk as a toolbox filled with all the different tools that help prepare the infant for life. Vaccination adds another tool to the toolkit, a tool that has the potential to be particularly effective in preventing COVID-19 disease, ”says Josef Neu, MD, study co-author and professor in the Department of pediatrics of the UF College of Medicine, division of neonatology, in ScienceDaily. “The results of our study strongly suggest that vaccines can help protect both mother and baby, another compelling reason for pregnant or breastfeeding women to get the vaccine.”

Breastfeeding mothers who have been infected with COVID-19 can pass certain antibodies built up in their own immune systems to their infants, but experts think these don’t last that long than those created as a result of vaccination, which elicits a more standardized response.

“These levels [seen in the study] are also higher than those seen after natural infection with the virus, ”says Vivian Valcarce, MD, resident in the Department of Pediatrics at UF College of Medicine, Division of Neonatology, and study author, in ScienceDaily.

Of course, other precautions against the virus should always be considered by parents, especially if you have a child under the age of 2, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing and vaccination of all members of the household. eligible family. All of these steps are crucial in helping to reduce the spread of the virus.


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Perl SH, Uzan-Yulzari A, Klainer H, Asiskovich L, Youngster M, Rinott E, Youngster I. SARS-CoV-2-Specific antibodies in breast milk after COVID-19 vaccination of breastfeeding women. JAMA. 2021 May 18; 325 (19: 2013-4). doi: 10.1001 / jama.2021.5782

Valcarce V, Stafford LS, Neu J, Cacho N, Parker L, Mueller M, Burchfield DJ, Li N, Larkin J. Detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA in breast milk of health workers vaccinated against COVID-19 and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding medicine. 2021.

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