VUMC Sees Increase of COVID-19 in Pregnant Patients; CDC Urges Vax

Today, Aug. 11, the CDC released a recommendation that pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19, pointing to new safety data.

"CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in a statement. "The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people."

VUMC's Observations—and One Patient's Experience

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) physicians are spreading the message about the safety of the vaccine and the risk that COVID-19 poses to pregnant patients. In an Aug. 2, 2021 article on VUMC Reporter, Emily Stembridge explains that COVID-19 can trigger an increased risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation and ventilatory support, and increased risk of death in pregnant patients with COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant patients.

“Pregnant patients are at a high risk for severe disease compared to individuals who are not pregnant,” Jennifer Thompson, MD, VUMC associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, told Sternbridge. “Studies have also found increased risk of pre-term birth, cesarean delivery and pre-eclampsia in pregnant patients with COVID-19 infections.”

Yet the most moving message comes from the experience of a patient who was hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19 33 weeks into her pregnancy. Sara Brown, a Union City, Tennessee, native, was admitted to Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital for access to an oxygen machine, breathing treatments and monitoring.

When her oxygen levels did not improve, Brown was transferred to the ICU at VUMC. “When they started talking about the NICU, I realized there was a chance I was sick enough that they would have to take my baby,” Brown said. Fortunately, Brown’s oxygen levels stabilized after 12 days in the hospital.

Brown was not vaccinated prior to getting COVID-19—but said she wished she had been. “When the vaccine became available, I was hearing mixed things about if it was safe and whether it could cause miscarriages. I thought I would just wait nine months and get vaccinated after my baby was born. I believed if I got COVID-19, I wouldn’t get that sick because I’m young, healthy and have no underlying conditions. That changed very quickly after I tested positive,” Brown said.

Scientific Community Backing 

In addition to the CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. A new Israeli study published in JAMA showed that vaccination with Pfizer mRNA vaccine appears to be effective and safe in pregnant women. 

To learn more about what mothers-to-be need to know about vaccination, read this article from My Southern Health.

Sara Brown was not vaccinated prior to getting COVID-19—but said she wished she had been.