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HealthPartners Institute receives $1.7 million from NIH to study COVID-19 vaccination, breastfeeding and infant health

The project will help inform decision-making among new and expecting parents who may be considering COVID-19 vaccination

July 14, 2022

Bloomington, Minn. – HealthPartners Institute has received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study whether COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy or following delivery affects breastfeeding or infant health.

Preliminary data suggest that infants who consume breast milk from their vaccinated parent may receive some protection against COVID-19. But little is known about how the vaccines impact milk production and excretion, along with other lactation-related outcomes.

“Pregnant and lactating individuals were excluded from the initial COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, so this project will help fill knowledge gaps,” said Kristin Palmsten, ScD, principal investigator on the study and senior researcher with HealthPartners Institute. “We don’t expect to identify anything concerning related to lactation, but data are needed to help support parents with infants receiving breastmilk who are also making decisions regarding vaccination.”

The researchers will analyze electronic health record data from 11,000 birthing parent-child pairs at four large health systems across the nation, including HealthPartners. They will study infant growth, infant heath care utilization, risk of mastitis, and breastfeeding status up to seven months after delivery. The researchers will also look at short-term infant outcomes and abnormal infant developmental screens following COVID-19 vaccination in birthing parents.

HealthPartners and its collaborators are among the few health systems nationwide that routinely collect breastfeeding information in the electronic health record at well-child visits in a way that can be readily used for research. This unique data collection will also pave the way for other similar studies of vaccines administered postpartum.

About HealthPartners Institute

HealthPartners Institute is part of HealthPartners, the largest consumer governed nonprofit health care organization in the nation with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with our members, patients and the community. HealthPartners Institute supports this mission through research and education—advancing care delivery and public health around the globe. The Institute annually conducts more than 350 research studies and trains 700+ medical residents and fellows and 1,200+ medical and advanced practice students. Its integration with HealthPartners’ hospitals, clinics and health plan strengthens the Institute’s ability to discover and develop evidence-based solutions and translate them into practice. Visit for more information.

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