- Latinas are more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 than their white peers while pregnant.
- Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy can increase the risk of adverse health outcomes.
- Given these findings, health practitioners are urging pregnant people to get vaccinated.
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Latinas are more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 than their white peers while pregnant, according to a new study that emphasizes the need for targeted vaccinations.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity, involved testing 4,500 pregnant women who went into labor from October to December 2020 for antibodies.
Since vaccines were not yet available in the US during this time period, antibodies “were attributable to women having the disease,” Dr. Alice Pressman, research director of the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity and lead author of the study, explained on a press call Wednesday.
After adjusting for age and other risk factors, researchers found that pregnant Latina women were 2.4 times more likely than white patients to be infected by COVID-19.
Given that contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy can increase the risk of adverse health outcomes, including maternal mortality,
, preterm birth and stillbirth, the study underscores the importance of preventing the spread and severity of the virus among mothers-to-be.
“The findings are exciting in the sense that it gives us additional data we can now share with our patients in helping them to make that really important decision to get fully vaccinated in pregnancy so we can protect them and their babies,” Dr. Jorge Siopak, the medical director of Obstetrics/Gynecology Women’s Health and Perinatal Services at La Clínica de La Raza, said on the call.
According to Siopak, who works with underserved communities in his work at the Oakland, California-based clinic, many patients decline or postpone getting the vaccine until after pregnancy because they are concerned that getting vaccinated will have harmful effects on them and their baby.
But a growing body of research shows that not getting vaccinated while pregnant is a far greater risk to a mother and her baby’s health than getting the shot, Siopak said, since pregnancy already places stress on a mother’s body.
As of this month, only 40% of pregnant people have received a vaccine prior to or during their pregnancy, according to the CDC.
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The CDC announced Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy is not linked to complications at birth, including preterm delivery and underweight newborns.
Still, misconceptions persist, which is why experts are calling for greater education on the vaccines’ utility during pregnancy.
As of this month, only 40% of pregnant people have received a vaccine prior to or during their pregnancy, according to the CDC. In other words, 3 in 5 pregnant people in the US are currently unvaccinated, and therefore unprotected, against the highly transmissible Omicron variant that is leading to a surge of cases nationwide.
As for why the discrepancy between COVID infection rates among Latina and white pregnant women exists, the Sutter House researchers are currently working on an ancillary study, which involved surveying pregnant women to better understand their risk factors, on the topic.
The forthcoming research shows there was little difference in terms of risky behavior by race and ethnicity across groups, as pregnant women of all backgrounds reported social distancing and wearing masks.
The biggest differences then were living arrangements and work, which appeared to put Latinas in closer contact with people who were infected by COVID-19 than their white counterparts.
“When it came to the living arrangements the Hispanic population was much more likely to self-report living in a household with more than 5 other members,” Pressman explained.
Pressman also noted that Latinas are more likely to come into contact with people who have COVID-19 in their roles as essential workers.
While many people have been able to transition to remote work, Black and Latino workers are over indexed in essential work that requires them to be in-person and puts them at greater risk for contracting the virus, according to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit economic and social research organization.
“In the end our common goal as healthcare providers and as parents, is really to have a healthy outcome for mom and baby and vaccination is one of the key elements to be able to achieve that during this pandemic,” Siopack said.