Pregnant women should be vaccinated for COVID-19, says Duke expert

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Pregnant women who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 are a higher risk of complications, admission to hospital ICUs, and death, a Duke University specialist said Wednesday.

Dr. Geeta Swamy, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Duke University School of Medicine told reporters Wednesday that women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The vaccine does not cause infertility or pre-term birth, she said.

“Given the complications related to COVID infections are more likely to occur with later, advancing pregnancy, we really recommend women get the vaccine as early as they can,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month urged vaccination for pregnant women as the Delta variant spread and hospitalizations increased.

COVID-19 vaccination rates for pregnant women remain low, however. Less than 25% of pregnant people ages 18-49 had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Aug. 28, according to the CDC.

Pregnant women are hesitant for a lot of reasons, Swamy said.

“Pregnant women frequently put their developing fetus ahead of their concerns for themselves or their own health,” she said. “What we try to do is to talk to pregnant women and their families about the fact that in order to have a healthy baby, we really need to make sure we have a healthy mother.”

The coronavirus Delta variant has swept through North Carolina, causing new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to hit highs not seen since January.

On Tuesday, 3,790 people were in North Carolina hospitals with COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. About 25% were adults in ICUs.

Sixty-one percent of North Carolina adults are fully vaccinated, according to DHHS.

Nationwide, nearly 120,000 pregnant  women have been diagnosed with COVID, according to the CDC.

Doctors in Alabama have reported alarming increases in pregnant women with COVID-19 in hospital ICUs.

Swamy said Duke and UNC hospitals have not seen such dramatic increases, but there are more pregnant women in ICUs since the Delta variant took hold than there were in the beginning of the pandemic.

“Now we’re seeing more than a handful at any given time,” she said. “More than we would expect.”

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