SPECIAL REPORT: COVID & Pregnancy
Specialist: Women of reproductive age in Bell County and across Texas are not wanting to get vaccinated because they are scared.
According to Dr. Jessica Ehrig, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, 90 percent of the pregnant women in Bell County have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 2021
BSW expert: COVID vaccination protects mother and baby
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple exclusive
Pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 and its Delta variant than non-pregnant women, but few are receiving vaccinations that could protect mother and baby, experts say.
“There’s some hesitancy,” said Dr. Jessica Ehrig, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple. “Women of reproductive age are not wanting to get vaccinated because they are scared. But pregnant women are not having more side effects from the vaccine, and no adverse births have been associated with the vaccine.”
Nationwide, 84 percent of pregnant women are unvaccinated, and that number jumps to 90 percent in Bell County.
Ehrig said pregnant women are not at a higher risk for becoming infected with COVID, but they should take extra precautions to protect themselves and the baby they are carrying.
“Pregnancy can make women more susceptible to viral respiratory illness, and you should be careful to keep yourself safe and healthy,” Ehrig said.
“The No. 1 thing a mother can do is get vaccinated,” she said. “The vaccine puts antibodies in the body that protect the mom and the child. These antibodies have been found in cord blood placenta; that means it is protecting the baby as well.”
The cord contains blood vessels that help carry oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the baby, and in vaccinated pregnant women, these vessels also carry antibodies.
In addition, Ehrig said antibodies also are being found in breast milk.
“When a vaccinated woman breast feeds, she is protecting the child by providing these antibodies,” she said.
Ehrig said vaccinations don’t completely eliminate chances of becoming infected with COVID, but they do lessen the severity.
Pregnant women are at a greater risk of severe illness from COVID compared to non-pregnant women, she said.
“Severe illness requires intensive care hospitalizations and may require ventilators or special equipment to help patients breathe,” Ehrig said. “Ultimately, it could lead to death.”
“It’s important to keep the mother’s oxygen levels up because the baby depends on the mother to provide its oxygen as well,” she said. “If the baby isn’t getting normal levels of oxygen, the risks of preterm births and stillbirths go up.”
Ehrig said it is important for family members to get vaccinated as well as the pregnant woman.
“Cut the chances of getting exposed by getting family members vaccinated, too,” she said. “And follow recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.”
These recommendations include washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding close contact with other people and disinfecting places that are frequently touched, including door knobs, light switches, toilet handles and faucets.
“Getting vaccinated is the number one priority and it’s easy to do,” Ehrig said. “You can get the shot anywhere — drug stores, H-E-B, clinics…you don’t even need a doctor’s appointment.”
As of July 26, 14.7 million people have received at least one dose, which is 50.6 percent of Texas’ population, and 12.6 million people, or 43.4 percent, are fully vaccinated. A total of 26.2 million doses have been administered, according to The Texas Tribune.
Dr. Jessica Ehrig, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, says pregnant women can protect themselves and their baby by getting vaccinated.