Babies too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19 may be better protected than previously thought, a new study shows.
Researchers at the University of Florida have found that babies who consume the breast milk of vaccinated people have antibodies to COVID-19 in their gastrointestinal tract.
The study builds on previous research that showed that the breast milk of vaccinated people contained antibodies to COVID-19, the mechanism needed to fight infection. What scientists didn’t know was whether that protection could also be passed on to babies who consumed it.
By testing the poop of babies who have consumed breast milk from vaccinated people, scientists have found that COVID-19 antibodies are present in a baby’s gastrointestinal tract.
COVID-19 is often thought of as a lung disease, but “it can also invade the gut, which is why it’s important to find antibodies there,” according to a UF release.
The study also measured the antibodies in the blood plasma and breast milk of vaccinated people at different times after vaccination and found that the “antibodies in the plasma and milk of vaccinated people were better able to neutralize the virus”, but the levels of antibodies decreased over time.
“In our research, we follow the journey of the antibodies, from when they are produced in the mother after vaccination and now through the baby’s digestive system. The next question is whether those babies are less likely to get COVID-19,” Josef Neu, a study co-author, said in the release.
The study was relatively small, only 62 participants, so the researchers say more data is needed. But the research adds to a growing body of evidence showing the potential benefits to newborns when pregnant people are vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 6 months old, so the researchers believe “breast milk is the only way to provide immunity.”
The GGD does recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for people who are currently pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive or planning to become pregnant in the future.
This story was originally published January 13, 2023 3:43 PM.