Local health officials expressed concern Thursday about pregnant women not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Across the U.S. less than 25% of pregnant people have received a COVID vaccine, and in talking to our Philly health care providers we’re hearing that many of their pregnant patients are not vaccinated,” Dr. Stacey Kallem, director of maternal, child and family health at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, said during a virtual media briefing.
“And right now with the Delta variant and high case rates across the country and in our area, it’s even more important for pregnant people to get vaccinated.”
She said research shows that pregnant women are at higher risk for getting severely ill and more likely to be hospitalized or admitted to an intensive care unit or even die if they get COVID.
Kallem urged women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant to talk to their health care providers about getting vaccinated.
She noted data has shown that COVID vaccines are safe and effective in pregnancy. According to Kallem, more than 150,000 pregnant women in the U.S. have been vaccinated against COVID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely following about 5,000 of them.
“A lot of research has been done on these vaccinated pregnant people and from this research we know that this vaccine works to protect you against COVID if you’re pregnant and we also know that there haven’t been any safety concerns for either mom or baby,” said Kallem, who was vaccinated during her pregnancy.
“Getting vaccinated while pregnant may also even help protect the baby, since the antibodies that fight COVID that are produced after you’re vaccinated against COVID can cross the placenta.”
Currently, 67.1% of Philadelphia adults are fully vaccinated, and 81.9% have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re very excited about our vaccine numbers. We’re among the highest of the largest cities but we still have work to do,” Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, acting Philadelphia health commissioner, said at the briefing.
More than 1 million people in Philadelphia have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Bettigole said there is some evidence that Philadelphia is reaching a peak in new cases and hospitalizations. She noted that Philadelphia is averaging 282 new cases of COVID-19 per day during the last two weeks.
Thus far, 156,804 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 3,827 have died from the virus.
Many new cases among young Black adults
Bettigole said the highest number of new coronavirus cases in Philadelphia are among young Black adults aged 20 to 34. With young Black residents having the lowest vaccination rates of the city, she said city officials are targeting vaccination clinics and community outreach efforts to that population.
“It’s our young adults who are getting this right now,” Bettigole said. “I think it’s because people have gotten a little bit careless and that population has not been as motivated to get vaccinated because they think that it doesn’t affect them, but from what we’re hearing from the news around the country, we know that it’s our young adults in the hospital, young adults in the ICU and young adults dying of COVID and we need our young adults to get the vaccines.”
She said the city is not contact tracing every case at this stage. However, based on the cases that have been traced, the majority of people were exposed to COVID in close contact at home.
“We tend to be much better at taking precautions with people that we don’t live with — people that we’re not close to,” Bettigole said.
“And not thinking so much about a dear friend who comes over, a family member who doesn’t live with us who comes over. That’s where exposure is happening. People let their guard down. They take their masks off. They have a meal together with someone they don’t live with and now you have the cases spreading.”
She urged people to be aware of their risks as they start socializing and having parties again at home.