COVID-19 vaccine response in pregnant and lactating women: a cohort study

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Mar 8:2021.03.07.21253094. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.07.21253094.


Background: Pregnant and lactating women were excluded from initial COVID-19 vaccine trials; thus, data to guide vaccine decision-making are lacking. We sought to evaluate the immunogenicity and reactogenicity of COVID-19 mRNA vaccination in pregnant and lactating women.

Methods: 131 reproductive-age vaccine recipients (84 pregnant, 31 lactating, and 16 non-pregnant) were enrolled in a prospective cohort study at two academic medical centers. Titers of SARS-CoV-2 Spike and RBD IgG, IgA and IgM were quantified in participant sera (N=131), umbilical cord sera (N=10), and breastmilk (N=31) at baseline, 2nd vaccine dose, 2-6 weeks post 2nd vaccine, and delivery by Luminex, and confirmed by ELISA. Titers were compared to pregnant women 4-12 weeks from native infection (N=37). Post-vaccination symptoms were assessed. Kruskal-Wallis tests and a mixed effects model, with correction for multiple comparisons, were used to assess differences between groups.

Results: Vaccine-induced immune responses were equivalent in pregnant and lactating vs non-pregnant women. All titers were higher than those induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy. Vaccine-generated antibodies were present in all umbilical cord blood and breastmilk samples. SARS-CoV-2 specific IgG, but not IgA, increased in maternal blood and breastmilk with vaccine boost. No differences were noted in reactogenicity across the groups.

Conclusions: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines generated robust humoral immunity in pregnant and lactating women, with immunogenicity and reactogenicity similar to that observed in non-pregnant women. Vaccine-induced immune responses were significantly greater than the response to natural infection. Immune transfer to neonates occurred via placental and breastmilk.

Publication types

  • Preprint