By Rubin E. Grant
Dr. Jessica Grayson understands COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women and those wanting to become pregnant in the future.
It’s why she took part in two of four recent online panel discussions via Zoom that the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine presented and that discussed the latest information available on the pandemic.
Grayson, assistant professor in the UAB Department of Otolaryngology, was joined by two other UAB doctors who treat women and expectant mothers. They urged pregnant women to get vaccinated, and Grayson discussed her own journey receiving the vaccine while pregnant.
“I got my first Pfizer vaccine on December the 18th when I was 21 weeks pregnant, and I was really excited for the opportunity to keep myself and my baby safe,” Grayson said.
Grayson said she had no complications after receiving both doses of the vaccine and had a successful delivery in April.
“My child is growing normally,” she said. “He’s 4 months old. He’s hit every milestone. He’s happier than my other kid at baseline, but I don’t think that’s vaccine-related. It just happens to be his personality.”
Grayson hopes other expectant mothers will get vaccinated to save lives and babies.
“There are too many mothers who will never meet their baby because of COVID, and there are too many babies who will not meet their mom,” she said.
On Aug. 20, UAB was taking care of 39 unvaccinated pregnant women, and 10 of them were in ICUs. Seven were on ventilators because of the very contagious Delta variant.
That was extremely concerning to Dr. Audra Williams, assistant professor in the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, because less than 25% of pregnant women across the nation have at least one dose of the vaccine. Only 10% of pregnant African American women had at least one dose.
“The Centers for Disease Control, along with every single major health organization, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, strongly recommends that pregnant women get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Williams said.
“Any pregnant patient who is considering the vaccine, I strongly encourage you to talk to your health care provider. We don’t want to see you here in the ICU and having to have your baby delivered early when it’s something that could have been prevented.”
Williams cited a study about women having pre-term births as an example of the importance of the vaccine.
“Another recent study showed almost 60% increase in pre-term births among women affected with COVID,” Williams said. “All the data shows the benefits of vaccinations outweigh the risks.”
Dr. Jodie Dionne echoed Williams’ sentiments while talking about a rumor associated with infertility.
“There is zero evidence that the vaccine is linked to infertility,” said Dionne, associate director of UAB’s Global Health in the Center for Women’s Reproductive Health and associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases.
“That is a rumor that is out there. I hear it in the work I do in Africa, I hear it from the patients I take care of here in Birmingham, so we have to be clear – there is no association,” she said.
The doctors also encouraged spouses to get vaccinated as another layer of protection for an expectant mother and her unborn child.