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COVID-19 mRNA vaccines drive differential Fc-functional profiles in pregnant, lactating, and non-pregnant women

By Caroline Atyeo, Elizabeth A. Deriso, Christine Davis, Evan A. Bordt, Rose M. De Guzman, Lydia L Shook, Lael M Yonker, Alessio Fasano, Babatunde Akinwunmi, Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Michal A Elovitz, Kathryn J. Gray, Andrea G. Edlow, Galit J. Alter

Posted 05 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.04.438404

Significant immunological changes occur throughout pregnancy to tolerize the mother and allow growth of the fetal graft. However, additional local and systemic immunological adaptations also occur, allowing the maternal immune system to continue to protect the dyad against foreign invaders both during pregnancy and after birth through lactation. This fine balance of tolerance and immunity, along with physiological and hormonal changes, contribute to increased susceptibility to particular infections in pregnancy, including more severe COVID-19 disease. Whether these changes also make pregnant women less responsive to vaccination or induce altered immune responses to vaccination remains incompletely understood. To holistically define potential changes in vaccine response during pregnancy and lactation, we deeply profiled the humoral vaccine response in a group of pregnant and lactating women and non-pregnant age-matched controls. Vaccine-specific titers were comparable, albeit slightly lower, between pregnant and lactating women, compared to non-pregnant controls. Among pregnant women, we found higher antibody titers and functions in those vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. FcR-binding and antibody effector functions were induced with delayed kinetics in both pregnant and lactating women compared to non-pregnant women. Antibody boosting resulted in high FcR-binding titers in breastmilk. These data point to an immune resistance to generate highly inflammatory antibodies during pregnancy and lactation, and a critical need to follow prime/boost timelines in this vulnerable population to ensure full immunity is attained.

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