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Doctors urge pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccination

A health care worker checks the development of a pregnant woman’s baby via ultrasound. File photo
Only 32.2% of pregnant American women vaccinated

With a 32.2% vaccination rate against COVID-19, pregnant women across America are lagging far behind the general public in getting vaccinated, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn.

The vaccination rate for all adults age 18 and over is 63.4% in Jackson County, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

The CDC is recommending urgent action to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, those who were recently pregnant including women who are breast-feeding, people who are trying to become pregnant and those who want to become pregnant in the future.

False rumors that COVID-19 vaccination triggers miscarriages or causes infertility have spread across social media.

COVID-19 vaccination helps protect pregnant women and their babies, and doesn’t cause infertility in men or women, the CDC said.

COVID-19 vaccinations don’t contain viruses.

Catching the COVID-19 virus while pregnant increases the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death for women. Babies are more likely to be born prematurely and be admitted into a neonatal intensive care unit, the CDC said.

As of Sept. 27, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported among pregnant women. Of those, 22,000 had to be hospitalized and 161 died, the CDC said.

More pregnant women suffered COVID-19-related deaths in August than during any other single month of the pandemic. That month, 22 women died, the CDC said.

Along with underlying conditions like diabetes and lung disease, pregnancy is a risk factor for severe illness and death from COVID-19, the CDC said.

During a September press conference held by Rogue Valley doctors, surgeons and nurses to address a local surge of COVID-19 cases, Dr. Justin Shelton said pregnancy naturally weakens women’s immune systems, making them less able to fight off viruses.

Shelton, an obstetrician with Women’s Health Center of Southern Oregon, said a massive study of 870,000 pregnancies found women who caught the COVID-19 virus were five times more likely to require intensive care, 14 times more likely to be put on a ventilator and 15 times more likely to die.

Shelton said vaccination can significantly lessen those risks. He said COVID-19 vaccination doesn’t increase the risk of premature labor or harm future fertility.

“Any claims that have been made that the vaccine affects your fertility or ability to become pregnant in the future are false and not founded in science,” Shelton said. “And another benefit of vaccination is that you’re also protecting your baby as well. When you do get vaccinated, the antibodies that you create during pregnancy actually pass through the placenta and the baby holds on to them for the first couple months of life.”

Those antibodies are especially important given that newborn babies have vulnerable lungs and lack a developed immune system of their own to protect themselves, he said.

“By getting vaccinated as a pregnant patient, you’re actually doing one of the best things you can for your newborn child to protect them,” Shelton said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.