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Doctors Urge Pregnant People, Those Considering Pregnancy To Get COVID Vaccine

Ultrasound image of baby
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pregnant people have suppressed immune systems, so doctors say they need to consider the urgency of getting vaccinated, particularly given that the delta variant is so contagious.

Lucia Pizano-Urbina found out she was pregnant after her first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose. She immediately called her doctor.

"Should I get the second one?" she asked. "I was definitely worried, but I was more worried of getting COVID."

Her doctor said she should definitely get the vaccine. Pizano-Urbina is the associate vice president of compliance at Broward Health.

"I'm so glad I got the vaccine," she said. "I work for Broward Health and we see the numbers. It's getting really scary out there. If you get COVID and you go to deliver your baby, you may not be able to be with your baby. It’s just extremely scary."

Staff and doctors at Broward Health spoke at a press conference this past Tuesday, urging maternity patients to get vaccinated. Pregnant people have suppressed immune systems, which makes them especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

Across the country, clinicians have seen the number of pregnant people who have COVID-19 increase in recent weeks because of the delta variant and low vaccination rates among pregnant patients. Getting vaccinated helps prevent miscarriages, pre-term delivery and significant health challenges for the parent.

A day before Tuesday's press conference, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant and lactating individuals receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Mary-Beatrice Squire is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Broward Health in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale. She said many people worry that getting vaccinated could harm a fetus, but actually, it’s the other way around.

"What they receive is the mother’s reaction to the vaccine, which is a positive antibody, which will protect the mother and hopefully will reduce infection for the baby as well," said Squire, who added that some unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in the maternity ward are delivering prematurely or need a ventilator or supplemental oxygen.

In Palm Beach County, Dr. Dudley Brown is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Jupiter Medical Center. Brown, too, is seeing more unvaccinated maternity patients end up in the hospital. He wants people to know that getting vaccinated is also vital to getting pregnant in the first place.

"Men who have had COVID have had relatively significant decreases in their sperm count afterward," Brown said. "Women who are going through fertility treatment, such as in-vitro fertilization, who are recovering from COVID, have perhaps less favorable IVF cycles — so less likely to result in successful pregnancy. While the vaccine does not negatively impact fertility, meaning it does not cause infertility, we know that COVID itself can negatively impact fertility."

"This point needs to be made that the vaccine is safe and effective and recommended for pregnant individuals, for lactating or breastfeeding individuals as well," he continued.

Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Verónica Zaragovia
Wilkine Brutus is a multimedia journalist for WLRN, South Florida's NPR, and a member of Washington Post/Poynter Institute’ s 2019 Leadership Academy. A former Digital Reporter for The Palm Beach Post, Brutus produces enterprise stories on topics surrounding people, community innovation, entrepreneurship, art, culture, and current affairs.