SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
When Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna conducted their safety trials of their COVID-19 vaccines, they enrolled tens of thousands of volunteers. But several groups were excluded, including pregnant and lactating mothers. And that's left many not knowing whether to get the vaccine. Dr. Adeline Goss is a neurologist in San Francisco. As a frontline health care worker, she was given the opportunity to get vaccinated. And in a Facebook post, she shared the complexities surrounding her decision because she's also a breastfeeding mother. Dr. Goss joins us now.
Welcome to the program.
ADELINE GOSS: Hi. Thanks for having me.
MCCAMMON: So I read your post, and I know the answer. But for our listeners, let me ask, what did you decide and why?
GOSS: So I decided to take the vaccine, and the decision to receive it was complicated. Historically and currently, pregnant and lactating people are often excluded from research studies. And this was true of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. They were shown to be very safe and very effective, but they weren't tested in lactating people, as you said.
I'm a doctor, but I'm not an immunologist. I'm not an OB-GYN. I'm not a pediatrician. And so in this scenario, I was a patient, and I was the parent of a baby with all of the fear and worry that goes into those roles. And so I did what any patient would do. I looked for advice and spoke to my doctors. And because I'm a physician, I also read position statements from medical societies. And ultimately, all of that reading led me to decide to receive the vaccine.
MCCAMMON: And I imagine you're thinking not only about what if you got COVID for yourself, but what would that mean for your child?
GOSS: That's exactly right. You know, I think one thing I know for sure is that my son needs me. He needs me to be around. And so while there are theoretical risks of any new medication or any new intervention like a vaccine, when I weighed the theoretical risks against the real risk of my contracting COVID-19, for me, the choice was clear after some research.
MCCAMMON: But arguably, you could have chosen to stop, right? I mean, that's - you didn't - you don't have to breastfeed.
GOSS: Absolutely not. I did not need to. And I'm sure there will be people who decide, for example, to wean their infants before receiving the vaccine. In my case, I think breastfeeding is wonderful, and my son seems to agree. And so I decided to continue and to protect myself from coronavirus while continuing to breastfeed my son.
MCCAMMON: And your son is 10, 11 months old now, I think. How is he doing since you received the vaccine?
GOSS: He's been great. He did not skip a beat. He's his normal, chatty little self.
MCCAMMON: And Dr. Goss, you, of course, were very transparent in your Facebook post about your decision-making process as both a physician and a breastfeeding mother. What's been the reaction to your post?
GOSS: You know, I think this mostly says a lot about my community, but the reaction's been really positive. I think people appreciate, especially those who have not yet been offered the vaccine - appreciate the opportunity to plan ahead and to begin to explore their own feelings and their own thoughts about this issue.
So, you know, I think for me, it's just really important to say that I'm not giving advice. You know, I think what matters is that every person take this choice, look at it, think about it, consult the people they trust the most and pursue the path that works for them. So I would recommend that people look at what the CDC has to say, at what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say. I also found a lot of interesting information from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. So these are groups who have considered this decision carefully, and they put out some guidelines to help people make the right choice for them.
MCCAMMON: Dr. Adeline Goss is a neurologist based in San Francisco.
Thank you for speaking with us.
GOSS: Thanks so much for having me.
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