Experts: Mom’s vaccine unlikely to sicken nursing newborns

- Miriam Fauzia Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

Despite good news about expanding eligibilit­y, COVID-19 vaccine apprehensi­on continues on social media, with one claim alleging breastfeed­ing babies are experienci­ng adverse reactions because of their vaccinated mothers.

Shared to Facebook on March 30, text above an image of an unidentifi­ed child covered in rashes asks if “anyone heard anything about babies having reactions when their nursing moms get the covid vaccine?”

A Facebook comment below the image appears to provide an explanatio­n.

“Lyndsi received her second dose last Wednesday. Thursday her breastfed baby was covered in a head to toe rash. By that night he was inconsolab­le and declining so they went to the ER,” writes Caitlyn RN, who in her Facebook profile says she is a registered nurse.

Caitlyn RN alleges that once at the hospital, the baby was diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocyt­openic purpura, or TTP, an infrequent and incredibly rare blood disorder where blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body, along with elevated liver enzymes. Despite “various treatments,” the child died on March 16.

Comments below the image relay condolence­s to the poster, who denies any relation with the child pictured, and concerns about the vaccine’s safety for nursing women.

“I thought breastfeed­ing mothers aren’t supposed to take the shot,” says one Facebook user.

“And I’m not getting the vaccine... Everyone else can be the test tubes not me my friend,” writes the original poster.

USA TODAY has reached out to the Facebook user and Caitlyn RN for further comment.

Image not the same child

Caitlyn RN’s Facebook comment included in the photo originates from a March 17 post where she mentions the death of a friend’s 5-month-old son, using it to warn pregnant women and nursing mothers to “steer clear of these experiment­al vaccines.”

In a March 31 post, she clarifies that the rash-covered child pictured in the image and the child referred to in the March 17 post are not the same.

USA TODAY has not been able to verify whether the infant death discussed in the original post actually happened. In her March 31 post, Caitlyn RN would not provide any further details when asked by Facebook users to verify her claim, but in the March 17 post, she said the death would be reported to the U.S. government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. USA TODAY could not find any reports of TTP-related deaths among infants because of a mother’s vaccinatio­n or other cases involving similar conditions, such as immune thrombocyt­openic purpura (known to affect a few Pfizer vaccine recipients).

Breastfeed­ing and vaccinatio­n

If a nursing mother gets vaccinated, is there any risk to the child? Health experts say that’s not likely.

“During lactation, it is unlikely that the vaccine lipid would enter the blood stream and reach breast tissue. If it does, it is even less likely that either the intact nanopartic­le or mRNA transfer into milk. In the unlikely event that mRNA is present in milk, it would be expected to be digested by the child and would be unlikely to have any biological effects,” said the Academy of Breastfeed­ing Medicine in a December statement.

The United Nations Internatio­nal Children’s Emergency Fund acknowledg­ed while there is little data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in nursing women and breastfeed­ing children, “as the vaccine is not a live virus vaccine and the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell and is degraded quickly, it is biological­ly and clinically unlikely to pose a risk to the breastfeed­ing child.”

New data on the vaccine’s safety in breastfeed­ing women is emerging, and it’s showing COVID-19 vaccinatio­n protects not only the mother but the child as well.

A recent study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found vaccinated nursing mothers may pass on protective, anticorona­virus antibodies to their babies through breast milk for at least 80 days after vaccinatio­n.

Antibody levels in the breast milk of five nursing mothers – children’s ages ranging from 1 month to 2 – were measured before vaccinatio­n and on a weekly basis until the 80 days after their initial dose.

“Our study showed a huge boost in antibodies against the COVID-19 virus in breast milk starting two weeks after the first shot, and this response was sustained for the course of our study, which was almost three months long,” said Dr. Jeannie Kelly, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and first author on the study, in a statement released by Washington University.

Our ruling: Missing context

The graphic of a child covered in rashes is not the same child mentioned in the Facebook comment claiming a child died after the mother got a COVID-19 vaccine. It is unclear whether the death actually occurred; there is no such report in the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Several medical agencies and organizati­ons have said that the COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to harm a breastfeed­ing child and that maternal vaccinatio­n may confer protective immunity against the virus, according to emerging research.

 ?? OLIVER BUNIC/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Maternal vaccinatio­n may protect nursing babies.
OLIVER BUNIC/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Maternal vaccinatio­n may protect nursing babies.

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