Pregnant and breastfeeding women have slower immune responses to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine than those who aren’t mothers, a new study suggests.
Researchers compared 95 mothers-to-be and new mothers to 16 non-pregnant women, all of whom were fully vaccinated.
They found that expecting and lactating women had fewer antibodies than other women after the initial dose, but their levels returned to ‘normal’ following the second shot.
The team – from Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School in the Boston area – says the findings show how important it is that pregnant and breastfeeding women receive the second dose on time to lower their risk of serious illness and death from the virus.
A new study compared 84 pregnant women, 31 breastfeeding women and 16 non-pregnant women, all of whom were fully vaccinated against Covid. Pictured: A pregnant woman waits in line for groceries during a food pantry at St Mary’s Church in Waltham, Massachusetts, May 2020
After the first dose, pregnant (blue) and breastfeeding women (purple) had lower antibody levels than non-pregnant women (yellow). After the second dose, antibody levels in pregnant women returned back to ‘normal’ and breastfeeding women experienced levels comparable to non-pregnant females.
Forthe study, published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team looked at 131 women, of whom 84 were pregnant, 31 were breastfeeding and 16 were non-pregnant.
All of the women were close to their 30s and were all fully vaccinated with either Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine.
Researchers discovered that pregnant and nursing women had lower levels of antibodies after the first dose than women who were not pregnant.
They also failed to produce any antibodies that could be used to combat Covid.
According to the research team after the second dose, pregnant women’s antibody levels returned to “normal” after the third dose.
Breastfeeding mothers were able see their antibody levels increase much more quickly than those of non-pregnant females.
The study involved pregnant women who were vaccinated in different trimesters. The research team stated that it hopes to determine if there is a better time for vaccination during pregnancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 34.6 percent have received at minimum one COVID-19 dose during pregnancy as of October 23, the most recent day for which data are available.
This is despite numerous studies showing that pregnant mothers are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population.
They are also more likely to become severely ill or even die from the virus once they have fallen ill.
Only 34.6% (yellow line), of all pregnant women in the United States are fully vaccinated according to CDC data
A University of Washington study found that pregnant women infected by Covid were nearly 14 times more likely than younger Americans to die and to be admitted with complications.
Expectant mothers with COVID-19 may also experience complications during pregnancy.
Another study done by the University of Oxford, UK, found that pregnant women were at 76 percent greater risk of preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure in pregnancy) and that they were also 59 percent more likely prematurely to give birth.
The CDC encouraged pregnant women to be vaccinated against COVID-19, after previously stating that they were only ‘eligible’.