Publication date: Sep 01, 2023
The human milk antibody response following maternal immunization with the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine is important for the protection of the infant during infancy. The vaccine-specific antibody response is still unclear at different stages of human milk production, as are the effects of maternal immunization timing on the robustness of the antibody response. The study aimed to assess the antibody response (IgG/IgA/IgM) during various lactation stages and identify the best vaccination timing during pregnancy. A prospective cohort study of 73 postpartum women who were administered the BNT162b2 COVID-19 mRNA vaccine during the second or third trimester of pregnancy were recruited. Statistical comparison was conducted using 16 human milk samples from a prepandemic control group. Excluding 11 women, the study included 62 lactating women who were administered the mRNA vaccine during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. A total of 149 samples of human milk were collected at different lactation stages. Our findings reveal that colostrum exhibits significantly higher levels of IgG (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1. 3, 9. 0; P = 0. 023), IgA (95% CI: 55. 98, 100. 2; P = 0. 0034), and IgM (95% CI: 0. 03, 0. 62; P < 0. 0001) compared with mature milk IgG (95% CI: 0. 25, 0. 43), IgA (95% CI: 9. 65, 13. 74), IgM (95% CI: 0. 03, 0. 04). The timing of maternal immunization affected the antibody response. The level of IgA in mature milk was higher when immunization occurred in the second trimester (95% CI: 11. 14, 19. 66; P = 0. 006) than in the third trimester (95% CI: 7. 16, 11. 49). Conversely, IgG levels in mature milk were higher when immunization occurred during the third trimester (95% CI: 0. 36, 0. 65; P < 0. 0001) than in the second trimester (95% CI: 0. 09, 0. 38). Our study provides evidence that administering the mRNA vaccine to pregnant women during the second trimester increases vaccine-specific IgA levels during lactation. Considering the significance of human milk IgA in mucosal tissues and its prevalence throughout lactation, it is reasonable to recommend maternal immunization with the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine during the second trimester. This trial was registered at the Helsinki Committee of the Tel Aviv Medical Center as clinical trial number 0172-TLV.