Study Confirms Safety of Breastfeeding After COVID-19 Vaccination

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Messenger RNA from COVID-19 vaccines does not appear to show up in breast milk, a finding that strengthens current advice that lactating women who receive COVID-19 mRNA-based vaccine not stop breastfeeding.

Data regarding vaccine safety in pregnant or lactating women are lacking and many mothers have declined vaccination or decided to discontinue breastfeeding (temporarily or permanently) due to concern that the vaccine may alter breast milk, Dr. Stephanie Gaw and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, note in JAMA Pediatrics.

The World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding mothers be vaccinated and does not advise stopping breastfeeding following vaccine administration.

“The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states that there is little plausible risk that vaccine nanoparticles or mRNA would enter breast tissue or be transferred to milk, which could theoretically result in priming of infant immune responses that could alter childhood immunity. However, there are no direct data,” the researchers say.

To address this knowledge gap, they analyzed 13 breast milk samples from seven breastfeeding mothers who had been vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

Vaccine-associated mRNA was not detected in any milk sample collected up to 48 hours after vaccination, the study team reports.

“In addition, any residual mRNA below the limits of detection in our assay would undergo degradation by the infant gastrointestinal system, further reducing infant exposure,” they note.

Limitations of the study include the small sample size and the fact that most women received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. “Clinical data from larger populations are needed to better estimate the effect of these vaccines on lactation outcomes,” the authors write.

In the meantime, the results support current advice for breastfeeding women to continue to breastfeed their infants following COVID-19 immunization, they conclude.

SOURCE: JAMA Pediatrics, online July 6, 2021.

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