Vaccinated Moms-to-Be Can Pass COVID-19 Antibodies to Baby, Studies Show

While more research is needed, a handful of studies show promising results when it comes to passing antibodies to newborn babies.
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ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Mar 2021
mom holds newborn baby after birth
Photo: Shutterstock

According to a few, small new studies, vaccinated moms-to-be may actually be able to pass COVID-19 antibodies to their newborns.

A study from Providence Portland Medical Center found that breastfeeding moms who had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine passed antibodies their kids, potentially protecting them against the virus. It’s important to note this was a small, pilot study and only looked at six breastfeeding women.

These women had gotten both their doses of the Pfzier or Moderna vaccine between December 2020 and January 2021. Researchers collected breast milk samples from the women before their vaccinations and 11 times afterwards, with the last sample collected two weeks after their second dose of the vaccine. The researchers found that starting seven days after the initial vaccine dose, there were higher levels of COVID-19 antibodies in the breast milk.

A second study from Tel Aviv University and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center also found that vaccinated pregnant women were able to pass antibodies to their newborn through breast milk. The study looked at 10 women who had received both doses and tested the antibody levels in their blood and breastmilk on four separate occasions afterwards. The researchers found that the antibody levels increased two weeks after the first dose, continuing until seven days after the second dose. They also found that the antibodies blocked the COVID-19 virus and believe this may help prevent the infection in newborns and babies.

"The encouraging data show that vaccinating breastfeeding mothers promotes the production of important antibodies in their breast milk, potentially protecting their nursing babies from the disease,” Dr. Yariv Wine, a researcher on the study and PhD candidate Aya Kigel from the TAU Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, told The Jerusalem Post.

The study is still being peer reviewed. Several researchers are currently working to find out more on how COVID-19 antibodies passed from mom to baby could help offer protection.

Furthermore, a baby girl recently born in Florida was found to have antibodies even though her mom was only partially vaccinated. The baby was born three weeks after her mom, a healthcare worker, received her first dose of Moderna’s vaccine. In testing, it was found that antibodies, likely passed through the placenta, existed in the cord blood. Dr. Paul Gilbert and Dr. Chad Rudnick, who conducted the study, were able to analyze a pregnant women who had never tested positive for COVID-19, but had gotten the vaccine late in her pregnancy.

In the past, studies have shown that moms who get COVID-19 may pass antibodies onto their babies. Now, this study is showing that vaccines delivered to pregnant women may help offer the same protection.

While the studies are promising, more research is definitely needed, as it remains unclear how long any protection from antibodies passed from moms to babies may last.

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