By Elizabeth Chuck -
By Elizabeth Chuck -
All of Nicole Torres' prenatal visits begin the same way: with her obstetrician asking if she has already received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Torres is 24 years old, and 33 weeks pregnant with her second daughter.
You have not been vaccinated yet.
It is not for lack of information.
Torres knows that
Pregnant women are at a higher risk for severe symptoms if they get COVID-19, and she has spoken with her obstetrician about the data showing
the vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies
She has considered getting vaccinated, but she and her husband have read alarming comments about the vaccine on the Internet that have made them doubt that it is the right thing to do.
"It's all so new," said Torres, of Kissimmee, Florida.
"Putting yourself at risk of trying a vaccine on yourself is one thing," he said.
"But with a newborn baby, that's where it starts to get a little scary," she added.
Nicole Torres with her husband, Robert, and their one-year-old daughter, Eliana.
Torres says she thinks she will get vaccinated, but probably not while she's pregnant.
Across the country, obstetricians are fighting an uphill battle in their efforts to convince pregnant women to agree to the coronavirus vaccine.
misinformation, patients 'false sense that they are invincible,
and lack of knowledge about vaccines have contributed to future mothers' reluctance to get vaccinated.
The need to vaccinate pregnant women is urgent: they are at risk of pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, and
there is evidence that the virus could increase the chances of a stillborn baby
They also face a higher chance of requiring intensive care or mechanical respiration.
Across the country,
at least 159 pregnant women have died from COVID-19
since the pandemic began, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, vaccination rates for pregnant women are low: Only about 25.1% have received at least one dose, according to the CDC, compared to 76.6% of adults overall in the United States who have.
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"I think most people who are pregnant are generally young and generally healthy, so they don't really expect that if they catch it, the disease will be as serious as we're seeing," said Brenna Hughes, vice president of obstetrics and quality at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University.
I'm surprised how few people realize that it can happen to them until it happens to them,
" he added.
Why Pregnant Women Choose Not to Get Vaccinated
People are regularly advised to get immunized during pregnancy, and there are vaccines that are more widely accepted among expectant mothers than COVID-19.
From 2019 to 2020, 61.2% of pregnant women received a flu vaccine, and 56.6% received the Tdap vaccine, or whooping cough, according to the CDC.
Both doses have been suggested for pregnant women for years, with abundant safety data to back it up.
Experts say that
while the COVID-19 vaccine is new, its technology - so-called messenger RNA, or mRNA, used in two-dose injections - is not
This technology has been applied in clinical trials for other infections, such as Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that can cause devastating birth defects if a pregnant woman contracts it.
This should reassure patients, but Hughes said a persistent concern she sees on the ground is the long-term effects of the coronavirus vaccine.
The specialist tells her patients that adverse reactions to any vaccine tend to appear in days or weeks, not months or years, and although the COVID-19 injection began to be administered relatively recently,
thousands of pregnant women already have received, which gives a large database that proves that it is safe
The CDC urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated in August, amid concerns about the number of seriously ill expectant mothers from COVID-19 in U.S. hospitals.Charles Krupa / AP
Other patients worry that getting a dose of an adult vaccine will affect their babies, said Torri Metz, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health.
Metz explains that
the vaccine allows the mother to make antibodies that will cross the placenta to the fetus
"That is very different from giving a baby a vaccine," he said.
Beyond doubts as to how safe the vaccine is, some patients have expressed concern about the lack of clarity in the messages.
When the pandemic began, the CDC encouraged, but did not recommend, that pregnant women get vaccinated.
In August, when hospitals across the country saw an increase in seriously ill pregnant women from COVID-19, the country's main health agency issued stronger guidelines calling for everyone expecting a baby to be immunized.
Some patients may have perceived this as a change in posture, when in reality, the CDC has always supported the vaccine during pregnancy, Metz said.
“Before, they said you could receive it.
Now, they say you should get it, ”he said.
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The CDC recommendation was based on new data showing that
there was no increased risk of miscarriage
for women who received at least one dose of the vaccine before 20 weeks.
Yet for many, the myth that the vaccine can interfere with their pregnancies is scarier than the news stories they see of unvaccinated pregnant people who have died from COVID-19.
"They say things like, 'Well, I'll be very careful,' and I try to tell them that everyone is very careful, and that sometimes is not enough, especially with the prevalence of the virus right now," Metz said.
"It is sad to see so many people sick with COVID-19 or admitted to the ICU when we have something that can prevent it"
Jennifer Thompson, OB / GYN
Jennifer Thompson, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University, said her institution has been dispelling false rumors about vaccines through brochures and virtual events on social media.
Thompson is an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, so she cares for patients with many different medical conditions.
Every time one of them chooses to get vaccinated, she feels relief.
"Yes, most coronavirus patients in general have a milder illness, but we don't know just by looking at you whether you are going to be someone who will end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) or not," he said.
"It is sad to see so many people sick with COVID-19 or admitted to the ICU when we have something that can prevent it," he added.
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An unvaccinated pregnant nurse prayed for a miracle after falling ill with COVID-19.
This was his last message before he died
Torres, the Florida mother who is unsure about getting vaccinated before the birth of her second daughter, feels it
is scary to think about the possibility of having to be hospitalized as a result of complications from the coronavirus
But the fact that doctors repeatedly suggest that she get vaccinated has not had the desired effect on her, or on other expectant mothers she has spoken to.
"I don't like feeling pressured," she said.
"I have met other pregnant women who are quite advanced who say they have stopped going to their regular obstetric check-ups because they are tired of hearing about the vaccines," she said.