Background: Breast milk is a vehicle to transfer protective antibodies from the lactating mother to the neonate. After SARS-CoV-2 infection, virus-specific IgA and IgG have been identified in breast milk, however, there are limited data on the impact of different COVID-19 vaccine types in lactating women. This study is aimed to evaluate the time course of induction of SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA and IgG in breast milk after vaccination.
Methods: In this prospective observational study in Spain, 86 lactating women from priority groups receiving the vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 were included. Breast milk samples were collected longitudinally at seven or eight-time points (depending on vaccine type). A group with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (n=19) and a group of women from pre-pandemic time (n=20) were included for comparison.
Results: Eighty-six vaccinated lactating women [mean age, 34.6 ± 3.7 years] of whom 96% were Caucasian and 92% were healthcare workers. A total number of 582 milk samples were included, and vaccine distribution was BioNTech/Pfizer (BNT162b2, n=34), Moderna (mRNA-1273, n=20), and AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, n=32). For each vaccine, 7 and 8 longitudinal time points were collected from baseline up to 30 days after the second dose for mRNA vaccines and adenovirus-vectored vaccines, respectively. A strong reactivity was observed for IgG and IgA after vaccination mainly after the 2nd dose. The presence and persistence of specific SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in breast milk were dependent on the vaccine type, with higher IgG and IgA levels in mRNA-based vaccines when compared to AstraZeneca, and on previous virus exposure. High intra- and inter-variability were observed, being relevant for IgA antibodies. In milk from vaccinated women, anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG was significantly higher while IgA levels were lower than in milk from COVID-19-infected women. Women with previous COVID-19 increased their IgG antibodies levels after the first dose to a similar level observed in vaccinated women after the second dose.
Conclusions: COVID-19 vaccination induced anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgA and IgG in breast milk with higher levels after the 2nd dose. Levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgA and IgG are dependent on the vaccine type. Further studies are warranted to demonstrate the protective antibody effect against COVID-19 in infants from vaccinated and infected mothers.
Trial registration: NCT04751734 (date of registration is on February 12, 2021).
Keywords: Antibodies; Breast milk; Immunoglobulins; SARS-CoV-2; Vaccines.
© 2022. The Author(s).