The vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has begun in some countries since the end of December. The authorities want to start by vaccinating the part of the population that is the most at risk then, should follow the rest. In all this bustle, a real debate emerged: vaccinating or not pregnant and breastfeeding women.
In most countries, pregnant women cannot be vaccinated even if they are considered fragile in their 3rd trimester. The case of breastfeeding women is more complicated, in some countries they have been allowed, and in others, they have not.
Initially, in countries like France and the UK, local authorities stated that women who nurse have to wait until the end of their breastfeeding to be vaccinated reported the Guardian.
These women would have to choose between breastfeeding their children and the vaccine.
“Government guidelines and news headlines alike have grouped those who are breastfeeding and pregnant together when talking about COVID vaccine safety. But as people try to make their own decisions without safety data, it might help to acknowledge that getting vaccinated during pregnancy and lactation carry different theoretical risks — and potential benefits.
Christina Chambers, a perinatal epidemiologist, and professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, said it’s never a good idea to lump together pregnancy and breastfeeding when asking whether something is harmful. Some drugs that are risky in pregnancy are also avoided by people who are breastfeeding, even when they’re perfectly safe for a nursing baby.” PBS.org
Why could breastfeeding women not be vaccinated?
The Haute Autorité de Santé declared “the excretion amount in the maternal milk is not known to this day, thus, it is not recommended to be vaccinated during breastfeeding”.
Indeed, a nonclinical trial has not been done yet on breastfeeding women.
Chambers said vaccines in general, especially those like the COVID vaccines that contain no live virus, are unlikely to harm a fetus or a nursing baby. “But they do raise some kind of different issues” in those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, she added.
Some of those issues pertain to the way vaccines work in general — by causing an immune response. Could triggering an immune response during the first weeks of pregnancy increase the risk of miscarriage? If they have an anaphylactic reaction or a high fever in response to the shot, could it affect the baby in any way? These are the kinds of questions that researchers will try to answer in future clinical trials.
Yet with breastfeeding, those concerns don’t apply. The main question is whether a dangerous amount of a substance gets filtered into a mother’s milk. For most drugs, Chambers said, “There’s so little that gets to the baby that there’s really very little theoretical risk.”
Even if a drug or vaccine does end up in breastmilk, its journey into the baby isn’t done. “Anything that goes through breastmilk also then has to go through a gut,” said Helen Hare, a junior doctor in acute medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland. “ Pbs.org
Doctor Hannah Barham Brown told the Guardian "the vaccine is our best defense against the covid-19. Deciding without any proof that some women cannot be vaccinated is irresponsible". The American authority recently affirmed that breastfeeding was not a contraindication of the vaccination. Leaning on all of this information and also because there were umpteen complaints from mamas, doctors, associations, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency decided to let breastfeeding women be vaccinated following the example of Spain and the USA.
In France, as a nursing mama, if you belong to a group that is the most at risk such as caregivers, the vaccine can be offered to you and the OMS does not recommend stopping breastfeeding after the vaccination.
If you could, would you choose to be vaccinated as a breastfeeding mama?