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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 11:51 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - About six months ago, the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available to everyone 16 years and older. At that time, many expectant mothers had questions about how the vaccine would impact their pregnancy and if it was safe.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to OBGYNs in Savannah, the recommendation is the same. They say pregnant women should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, there’s still plenty of hesitancy.

“Truthfully, I was super hesitant. I had COVID-19 the previous year and survived it,” Madison Stevenson said.

Stevenson works as a Physician’s Assistant at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Savannah. In 2020, she beat COVID, got married, and now is expecting her first child. She shared what it’s like working in a hospital right now, while pregnant.

“Your immune system as a pregnant woman is compromised anyways, so going through a pandemic, you see so many people hospitalized and not making it through. It’s honestly frightening, it’s terrifying, especially it’s not just my life, it’s my unborn baby who I love so much already,” Stevenson said.

In December, healthcare workers became eligible for the vaccine, but she did not take the shot. She said the misinformation all over social media got to her.

“You keep seeing it over and over again, and it made me question it for quite a while. Luckily, I’m in the position where I can talk to doctors, nurses, nurses in other states even, who are seeing the effects of COVID on pregnant women,” Stevenson said.

Dr. Andres Montes, attending OBGYN at St. Joseph’s/Candler knows all about the effects of COVID on pregnant women.

“If you’re pregnant, what happens, there’s such a change in your pulmonary respiratory system we have to do an emergency c-section just to get the baby out just to help the moms lung functioning,” Dr. Montes said. “I have personal experience taking mom to the OR, intubating her, she’s not knowing what’s going to happen. Having to take her baby, she’s going back upstairs to the unit, on a ventilator for days.”

Dr. Montes continued, “We just had to take a premature baby just to save a mom’s live.”

Those nightmare situations are why Stevenson said she decided to get vaccinated after talking to her own OBGYN.

“I called and spoke to my OB and told him, given (the delta variant), how crazy it’s been and asked what do you recommend for me right now,” Stevenson said. “He told me point blank I recommend you get the vaccine. No question about it anymore. We’re seeing too many pregnant women having respiratory distress, or even delivering preterm, and worst case scenario losing their baby. Not a question anymore, you need to get the vaccine.”

Dr. Montes said he understands the vaccine hesitancy, but the data is clear.

“Hundreds of thousands of women have already got the vaccine who are pregnant and there’s been no adverse outcomes reported in the data that’s been collected,” Dr. Montes said. “What I like to tell moms is the other side could be you on ventilator or your infant with COVID in the NICU.”

And Stevenson said she hopes her story will help other women who are pregnant, or hoping to be pregnant, decide to get vaccinated.

“Our hospital is inundated with COVID right now, not with people who have had the vaccine. We’re not seeing a ton of adverse effects from the vaccine that’s making our hospital full. We’re seeing the effects of COVID. It’s important to get the vaccine because of how transmissible the delta variant is,” Stevenson said.

Something really important to remember is the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend pregnant women get vaccinated. Both Stevenson and Dr. Montes said the ACOG is a great resource for all women with questions about the vaccine. We have a link to that if you want to look at the data, and of course, talk to your doctor if you have any questions at all.

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