There is no known risk in giving breastfeeding women the Covid-19 vaccine, and mums who are breastfeeding are now being offered the vaccine if they are eligible.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have said that there is a lack of safety data, but no known risk in giving available Covid-19 vaccines to breastfeeding women.
This means that there is not thought to be any risk giving the vaccine to breastfeeding mums, although not enough tests have been carried out to know for certain HIFN (2021).
But the JCVI added that developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding mean that the vaccine should be available for breastfeeding women GOV.UK (2021).
So, can I have the vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding your baby, you should be offered the Covid-19 vaccine if you are in one of the priority groups. These include frontline health or social care workers, or carers in residential homes.
Further information can be found on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) website.
If you are not in one of these groups, you will be offered the vaccine when it is rolled out to the wider population.
A health professional such as a GP or midwife can talk you through the risks and benefits to help you make an informed decision about vaccination.
I’ve been told that I need to stop breastfeeding to have the vaccine. Is this true?
You don't need to stop breastfeeding in order to have the vaccine. The RCOG website states that "there is no plausible mechanism by which any vaccine ingredient could pass to your baby through breast milk. You should therefore not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against Covid-19." RCOG (2021)
What if I don’t want the vaccine, will I lose my protection as an at-risk person?
You shouldn’t be put under any pressure to have the vaccine or not have the vaccine. If you choose not to have the vaccine, you should still continue to be given the same protections for at-risk groups, such as being allowed to work in a different place HIFN (2021).
Which vaccine will I have?
If you’re breastfeeding, you can have any of the three Covid-19 vaccinations (Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines) currently authorised for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) HIFN (2021).
The government has said that people under the age of 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine to the AstraZeneca vaccine, because of the benefit to risk ratio for this age group. Up until the end of March 2021, there have been 79 reports of serious blood clots following vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab, of over 20 million doses given. This means that roughly four people experience serious blood clots for every million doses. RCOG (2021)
I’ve read on a forum that I shouldn’t have the vaccine – is this true?
You may find the decision on whether or not to get vaccinated an emotional and difficult one to make. But be aware that many messages on online and other forums are based on individual opinion and not on scientific evidence.
Speak to a health professional about the vaccine to get up-to-date and reliable guidance. It's worth bearing in mind that the vaccine has now been given to large numbers of people to make sure it meets strict safety standards. RCOG (2021)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2020) www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/updated-advice-on-covid-19-vaccination-in-pregn…
RCOG information updated 9 April 2021: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/coronavirus-cov…
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists merged information sheet and decision aid: updated 12 April 2021 https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/2021-02-24-co…
Hospital Infant Feeding Network Factsheet on use of Covid-19 vaccinations in breastfeeding and pregnancy (January 2021) https://www.hifn.org/covid-interim
GOV.UK Covid-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding (January 2021) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-women-of-childbearing-age-currently-pregnant-planning-a-pregnancy-or-breastfeeding/covid-19-vaccination-a-guide-for-women-of-childbearing-age-pregnant-planning-a-pregnancy-or-breastfeeding