Pregnancy changes immune response to Covid-19 shot, study says

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – Pregnant and breastfeeding women appear to respond relatively weakly to their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a study that indicates the importance of them receiving both doses of standard regimens.

Immune responses to a single dose of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were weaker than in a group of non-pregnant women, according to the study released on Tuesday (Oct 19) by Science Translational Medicine.

Though all participants developed Covid-19 antibodies, other immune responses, such as antibody receptor functions, reached standard levels only after their second dose.

Studies have shown that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 symptoms. Some people have avoided the shots because of concerns, largely discounted by research, about fertility and breastfeeding.

“These results imply that vaccination earlier in pregnancy and boosting later in pregnancy will help to maximise transplacental and breast milk antibody transfer,” researcher Cristian Ovies and colleagues from Duke University School of Medicine, who were not involved in the study, said in a related editorial in the journal.

A second study released by the same journal suggested that women pregnant with male foetuses responded with fewer virus-fighting antibodies and other immune changes than those with female foetuses.

More such research is needed to understand women’s response to Covid-19 and vaccination, the Duke University researchers said in the commentary.

“These studies echo the call to action to incorporate women at different stages of gestation into clinical trials, thereby increasing their representation in the development of vaccines,” they said.

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