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COVID Vaccine For Breastfeeding Moms: Are There Any Side Effects?

Since its roll-out, one of the primary concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine has been its impact on pregnant and breastfeeding women. In June, the Union Health Ministry issued new guidelines for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to pregnant women.

The guidelines stated that pregnancy does not increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and has advised all pregnant women to register themselves on the Co-WIN portal or get themselves registered on-site at the COVID-19 vaccination centre.

According to a recent study, pregnant and breastfeeding moms reported similar side effects to what non-breastfeeding women did when vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The vaccines were also administered to infants, and they did not exhibit any severe side effects [1]. The side-effects reported in infants were irritability and inability to sleep and subsided in a few days.

COVID-19 Vaccine Safe For Breastfeeding Women: Study Findings

The study published in the online edition of Breastfeeding Medicine researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine asserted the following [2]:

  • The study comprised 180 breastfeeding women who were vaccinated.
  • More than 85 per cent of the respondents reported having side effects such as pain, swelling and itching at the injection site.
  • After the second dose, women who received the Moderna vaccine reported having side effects more than the other COVID-19 vaccines.
  • A small portion of the respondents reported reduced milk supply, which returned within 72 hours after the vaccination.
  • There were no major side effects reported in breastfed infants.
  • The study findings further added that all lactating women should get themselves vaccinated and can continue breastfeeding their infants [3].
  • The researchers added that one limitation pertaining to the study is that the symptoms experienced by pregnant and lactating women were self-reported; that is, more studies are required to establish the findings to be applicable to the generalised population [4].
  • The mRNA vaccines were safe for inoculating breastfeeding women and their breastfed children for both vaccines.
  • The study findings summarised that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe for breastfeeding mothers and their infants.

"Our results should encourage lactating women to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to continue to breastfeed their infants. They do not have to choose one over the other. Both are critical," the researchers added [5].

Guidelines For Administering COVID-19 Vaccines To Pregnant And Lactating Women

  • If a woman has been infected with COVID-19 during the pregnancy, she should be vaccinated soon after the delivery [6].
  • Regarding the safety of the vaccines, the ministry said that vaccines available are safe and vaccination protects pregnant women against COVID-19.
  • A vaccine may have side effects, which are generally mild - like any other medicine. In most cases, the woman may get a mild fever, pain at the injection site or feel unwell for 1-3 days. The long-term adverse effects and safety of the vaccine for foetus and child are not established yet.
  • In sporadic cases (one in 100,000-500,000), pregnant women may experience symptoms within 20 days after getting the COVID-19 vaccination, requiring immediate medical attention [6].
  • The COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA) are safe for pregnant women, breastfeeding moms and women trying to get pregnant.
  • India's first mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 Zydus Cadila, developed by Pune-based Genova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd (part of Emcure group of companies), is expected to be available to the public by September last week.

On A Final Note...

A vaccine may have side effects, which are normally mild - like any other medicine. In most cases, the woman may get a mild fever, pain at the injection site or feel unwell for 1-3 days. Lactating women should get the COVID-19 vaccine and continue to breastfeed their infants.

Can I breastfeed after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Women currently breastfeeding or expressing milk should continue after receiving the vaccine. Getting vaccinated does not mean you have to stop breastfeeding your infants.

Can all lactating and breastfeeding women take COVID-19 vaccination?

The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recommends the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to all breastfeeding women. The Government of India, too, has instructed all breastfeeding women as eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.