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Doctors Urge Pregnant People, And Those Considering Pregnancy, To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Ultrasound is often used for prenatal screening. It's just one of several prenatal screenings available to pregnant women.
Medical centers across South Florida are treating more unvaccinated pregnant patients in their intensive care units.

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."

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

Across the state, and 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 in the womb, 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 afterwards," 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.

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Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care, as well as Surfside and Miami Beach politics for the station. Contact Verónica at vzaragovia@wlrnnews.org
Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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