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'The placentas are taking a hit and the babies are getting stressed': Doctors urge pregnant women to get vaccinated

Pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness caused by COVID-19, but less than 25 percent of pregnant women are vaccinated.

TAMPA, Fla. — With each passing day, more and more Americans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74 percent of Americans age 12 and older have at least one dose of the vaccine.

That number drops off dramatically among the population of pregnant women. As of Sept. 4, only 24.8 percent of pregnant women had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Doctors and medical experts are urging expectant moms to get vaccinated now more than ever, as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to surge through communities.

Pregnant women have become a vulnerable target for fear-based misinformation claiming the vaccine causes things like infertility and miscarriage. This is not true.

Dr. Vanessa Hux, an OB/GYN at USF Health, said the internet and social media algorithms are part of the problem.

"The fact that there’s so much misinformation easily available to a population that’s starving for information," she said.

A good call

Hux decided to get vaccinated while she was pregnant in 2020, even before the CDC made the official recommendation for pregnant women to receive the COVID-19 shot.

She said her role as a frontline worker put her in harm's way and she believed the risk of COVID was greater to her and her baby than the vaccine.

A close call

Caroline Ratliff opted not to get the vaccine and at 33-weeks pregnant, she contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized one week later. 

Ratliff said she had to deliver the baby early because he was in distress. She doesn't remember his birth and wasn't reunited with her son until nine days after he was born. 

"To miss or not remember your child’s birth is undescribable," she said.

Now she urges other expectant moms to get vaccinated and take precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing.

“I almost lost my life and my son almost lost his," said Ratliff, who now plans to get vaccinated in November after waiting the recommended 90 days.

Dr. Felice Baron is the Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She's seeing more and more pregnant women catch COVID, become very ill, and be forced to deliver their baby pre-term.

"It's something about the COVID infection that the placentas are taking a hit and the babies are getting stressed," said Dr. Baron.