Allegheny Health Network’s Women’s Institute is strongly urging all pregnant patients to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible as the latest pandemic surge caused by the delta and omicron variants continues to sweep through Western Pennsylvania.
The recommendation comes on the heels of the latest study published last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is not associated with preterm delivery or underweight newborns.
It is the latest evidence in the growing body of evidence that shows the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, especially when compared to reported outcomes among unvaccinated pregnant patients who get infected with COVID-19.
“Unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies are at an increased risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 including hospitalization, stillbirth and even death,” said Dr. Marcia Klein-Patel, an OB-GYN physician and chair of AHN Women’s Institute. “On behalf of the many physicians and clinicians which comprise the AHN Women’s Institute, we can’t express enough the importance of pregnant women receiving their COVID-19 vaccination not only for their health and well-being but for the health of their babies.”
In November, the CDC published data that showed pregnant women infected with COVID were three times more likely to die compared to infected non-pregnant women of the same reproductive age, and the delta variant has caused that rate to grow five-fold. The delta variant also led to a significant increase in the risk of stillbirths among pregnant women with COVID-19 – from 47% to 304% – when compared to the uninfected.
“The reality of the situation is that pregnant women who choose to not receive their vaccination put themselves at an unnecessary risk and there have been devastating cases of mothers not making it through COVID-19 infections to meet their newborn babies,” said Dr. Ellen Hancox, a physician at AHN Women’s Institute – OBGYN/Erie. “It’s a privilege to serve the patients who entrust us with their care and to that end, it’s our responsibility to continue to emphasize the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations for a patient population with alarmingly low acceptance rates, especially with the arrival of the highly contagious omicron variant.”
Across the country, just a little over 30% of pregnant women are vaccinated against COVID-19, while nearly 70% of the general population has received at least their first dose, according to the CDC.
AHN continues to see an increase of pregnant women willing to receive the vaccine but still not at extremely high rates.
“We believe in the science of the COVID-19 vaccine and its ability to protect expectant and new mothers from severe outcomes, especially death. Furthermore, vaccination has been shown to boost COVID antibodies in mothers’ umbilical cords and breastmilk, passing on this vital protection to vulnerable newborns,” said Dr. Ron Thomas, maternal fetal medicine physician and clinical vice chair of AHN Women’s Institute. “There’s no reason to delay and if fear of vaccination persists, we strongly encourage our patients to speak with their physicians for further guidance and to dispel any misinformation.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, recommended that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster shots, with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccinations.
Patients who want to schedule an appointment for a vaccine can visit the network’s online scheduling portal at ahn.org/coronavirus/vaccine/schedule; access their MyChart account; contact their AHN OB/GYN or primary care physician; or reach out to their local pharmacy.