DETROIT, Michigan (WXYZ) — When breastfeeding mothers get the COVID-19 vaccine, do babies get protection too? That is the question two doctors from here in metro Detroit are hoping to help answer.
Dr. Yuliya Malayev’s daughter Mara was born just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan. When the doctor at Metro Obstetrics and Gynecology in Commerce got the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, she looked up research on the impact on nursing babies. She couldn’t find much information. Few lactating and pregnant women had been studied.
“The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialists did come out and say it was imprudent to leave out pregnant and lactating women, because they are in an at-risk population," Dr. Malayev said. "And if you are able to, you should still get the vaccine, if you are on the front line, if your risk of getting the virus outweighs your risk of getting side effects. So with that information, I decided to get the vaccine and pay it forward."
She enrolled in a study, volunteering to provide samples to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst working to find out if she could pass on antibodies to Mara.
“They told us to save milk from each side and to freeze it a certain way and then compare it with antibodies in my blood and then also in my baby’s stool at the end of the study period,” Dr. Malayev said.
“I am a pediatrician in Metro Detroit and I do take care of children who are positive for COVID,” said Dr. Kathryn Krauss-Schikora, another nursing mom enrolled in the study.
Early data shows that antibodies are passed on in breast milk, but researchers say they need to learn more to fully understand any potential protection.
She is hoping it is strong.
“This virus has been really scary. I have a daughter who is almost three and I have a son who is eight-months-old and was born during the pandemic. And so if there is even the slightest chance I could protect him by something, I could do I think that is really important,” Dr. Krauss-Schikora said.
Dr. Malayev urges those in a position privileged to get the vaccine early, to use that position to further their knowledge about the virus.
Brian T Pentecost, Ph.D., is a co-investigator on the study. He says they have completed national recruitment for breastfeeding moms who received the vaccine, and are still collecting data. They are still looking for nursing moms who have had COVID-19 to help them with their research.
“We are still recruiting nursing women for the parallel study of responses to SARS-CoV-2 after infection,” Pentecost said. “One goal is to understand the similarities and differences in immune responses to infection versus vaccine in breast milk.”
You can learn more about taking part at http://www.breastmilkresearch.org/covid-19-immune-response-markers-in-breastmilk/.
There are numerous other unrelated studies working to learn more about the vaccine and COVID-19. You can learn about studies though the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/covid-19-clinical-research and the COVID Prevention Network at https://coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org.