The latest CDC data shows only about 40% of pregnant women have been vaccinated as of Jan. 1. A new study out of Scotland is shining a much larger light on the benefits and safety of getting vaccinated while pregnant.
More pregnant mothers are weighing whether to get the vaccine, especially with the surging Omicron variant.
"I didn't want to get it and potentially harm my baby but looking back that doesn't really make any sense because I obviously wouldn't have wanted to get COVID with the baby," Heaven Taylor-Wynn said.
Doctors are trying to convince their pregnant patients to get the vaccine… because they’re seeing rough outcomes in some unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies.
“I felt like there was a herd of elephants on my chest, and I couldn’t breathe,” Ashley Duque said about contracting COVID-19 while pregnant.
“I've seen women they got really bad preeclampsia and a funny variant of preeclampsia called help syndrome that makes them very, very, very sick and requires urgent delivery," said Dr. Brad Holbrook, maternal fetal medicine specialist at Community Medical Center. "I've seen women with stillbirths. I've seen babies die after they were born. “
The new study out of Scotland confirms everything doctors like Holbrook have been saying, “Addressing low vaccine uptake rates in pregnant women is imperative to protect the health of women and babies in the ongoing pandemic.”
The Scotland team studied all women who were pregnant or became pregnant from Dec. of 2020 through Oct. of 2021.
"They looked at the entire population of the whole country and because they have a whole, you know, an integrated system, Dr. Holbrook said. "They have 130,000 women in this study that essentially showed the same things, which is that that women who get COVID are potentially in for some problems. So women who get COVID are more likely to have a pre-term delivery, a stillbirth complication with baby or with their pregnancy, and that women who are vaccinated and then get sick with COVID are very likely to have a much more mild course, so it really just confirmed everything that we've seen."
Among unvaccinated women, the study found they made up 77.4% of COVID infections. They accounted for 90.9% of cases that required hospitalization or critical care, and all 450 fetal and newborn deaths associated with the virus. The rate of deaths in babies after 28 weeks was much higher in women who got COVID-19 within a month of giving birth.
"The risk of getting infected is pretty high, and the risks involved in being vaccinated are almost nonexistent," said Dr. Alisa Kachikis, assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at University of Washington.
"I do feel like when I can sit down and talk with them face to face about it, look, you know, I'm not representing a drug company," Dr. Holbook said. "I'm not representing the government. I'm just representing the science and what I've read and understand about this and my own experience, and based on that and what I've seen, I've seen a lot of complications from COVID."
Now the highly transmissible Omicron variant brings new concerns, especially in places it’s just getting started like Montana.
"We're gonna have this big bunch of pregnant women come in really sick with COVID and not just pregnant women, unpregnant people as well coming into the hospital, and the hospital is gonna be totally full and understaffed," Dr. Holbrook said. "It's gonna be a very difficult couple of weeks, I think."
NEWSY'S MARITSA GEORGIOU: If there's a pregnant woman who watches this and she's been on the fence, about getting the vaccine worried about it, what's your message to her?
DR. HOLBROOK: My message would be, "Please go get vaccinated today. Don't wait any longer. There's nothing to be gained from waiting, and by getting a vaccine you could potentially save your life or your baby's life."
Dr. Holbrook says he tries to point out to his patients that it’s not a difference between the decision to get a vaccine or not get a vaccine but the decision to get the vaccine or get COVID, especially now that Omicron is leading to exponentially more infections.