TAMPA, Fla. — Leading medical experts say the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for pregnant women and could provide antibodies to newborns once they are born.
Dr. Katherine Apostolakis-Kyrus specializes in maternal-fetal medicine in the Johns Hopkins All Children's Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. She says pregnant women are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
"You have the baby in your body and your immune system goes down as to not attack it," Apostolakis-Kyrus said. "And because your immune system is down, you're more likely to get sick or have a harder time fighting infection."
But she said most pregnant women who contract COVID-19, just like the general population, will either be asymptomatic or have a mild infection. Apostolakis-Kyrus also said mothers who have had COVID-19 while pregnant have a good chance of passing their COVID-19 antibodies down to their newborns.
That is creating even more promising outlooks about pregnant women who get the vaccine.
"If moms who had the disease were able to pass antibodies to the baby, then hopefully moms who also get the vaccine will pass that to the baby," Apostolakis-Kyrus said.
IN-DEPTH | Dr. Katherine Apostolakis-Kyrus talks about COVID-19 and fertility, vaccines and transmission concerns from mother to baby
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which is for high-risk pregnancies, are both recommending the vaccine for pregnant women.
However, in Florida, current regulations do not automatically qualify pregnant women for COVID-19 vaccination. They would still need this form signed by their medical provider, saying that they are medically vulnerable, to present at a state-run or FEMA vaccination site. To get that form signed, the pregnant woman would likely have other underlying health issues that would make them more medically vulnerable to COVID-19.
Additionally, Apostolakis-Kyrus said moms who have either had COVID-19, or received the vaccine, are very likely to continue passing antibodies on to their newborn babies by breastfeeding. Additionally, they say it's safe for moms who have COVID-19 to nurse or pump breastmilk for their babies.
For mothers with COVID-19 and wish to nurse their babies, Apostolakis-Kyrus recommends wearing a mask while doing so and frequent handwashing to prevent transmission.