During the examinations of her pregnant patients, Dr. Jacqueline Parchem vaccination myths.
No, no pregnancy complications are more common in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people. People who are vaccinated are no more likely to miscarry, she says.
And the COVID-19 vaccine does not affect a person’s fertility.
“One of the major challenges with COVID that we have seen is that there is this active group of anti-vaccinators posting information on social media – everyone has seen or heard of it,” said Parchem, specialist in maternal and fetal medicine at UTHealth Houston and McGovern Medical School. “As a medical professional, you have to spend a lot of time debunking the myths and, frankly, counteracting these fictitious messages.”
Nine months after vaccines were made available to Americans, OBGYNS in the Houston area continues to urge pregnant people to take the vaccine. And now the largest and most respected women’s health organizations in the country are on board, said Parchem.
On July 30, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommended that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19 during each trimester.
Previously, the two leading organizations representing obstetrics specialists said vaccines were safe for pregnant women but did not officially recommend them to everyone. The change came after the organizations reviewed data from “tens of thousands of reporting people in recent months” showing safe use of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.
Low vaccination rates among pregnant women and a “worrying” increase in pregnant women ‘s admissions to hospital also changed news from ACOG and SMFM.
The data was verified by V-SAFE, a text messaging and web survey system used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quickly find out about side effects after taking the vaccine. Parchem said it can be used as a voluntary vaccine registry that helps researchers learn more about side effects in real time.
On August 16, 148,681 pregnant women reported no short-term side effects after taking the vaccine, according to V-SAFE.gov. Because the survey is voluntary, Parchem estimates that more than 150,000 pregnant people had no problems after either dose of the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In early May, only 16.3 percent of the pregnant women identified in VSAFE data had received a dose of the vaccine during their pregnancy, according to the CDC. Vaccination was lowest among Hispanic (11.9%) and non-Hispanic black women (6%). Only 5.5 percent of pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 24 were vaccinated at this time.
Parchem, too, has changed the way she provides information to her patients. Instead of giving them data to show that the vaccine is safe, she listens to their concerns and tries to connect with them as much as possible.
After all, she gave birth to a healthy boy in February, just two months after taking the vaccine herself.
“I hear you, I know why you are worried and I understand why you are worried,” said Parchem. “The great thing about vaccines is that they give us mothers the ability to protect our babies. If mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, they can pass this protection on to their baby through the placenta and pass into breast milk. “
To investigate more COVID vaccines in the pregnant population, Baylor College of Medicine Houston is seeking participants for a national study. Pregnant women have been found to be more prone to the worst COVID results, but they are also more skeptical about taking the vaccine, said Dr. Flor Munoz-Rivas, Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases, who co-authored the study.
“Everything we know right now shows that pregnant women are at significantly higher risk of serious effects from COVID, which is why such studies are important,” Munoz-Rivas said. “We know that with other vaccines like flu and whooping cough vaccines, mothers are able to protect their babies. We still have a lot to learn about infant protection by vaccinating mothers with COVID-19 vaccines. “
The study will enroll pregnant mothers who have received or plan to receive either Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Women can enroll during pregnancy, and participants will be monitored for up to a year after their child is born.
Mothers who have recently given birth and received the vaccine within the first three months of giving birth can register. However, the vaccine is not provided by researchers.
The study will examine how antibodies induced by the placenta and breast milk are transmitted to infants by vaccines and how they might protect against the virus in the baby’s first year of life.
Texas Medical Center admitted 448 new COVID-19 patients to its hospitals on Thursday. This is only the sixth time since the pandemic began, which saw more than 400 new hospital admissions in the Houston area in one day.
There are currently 2,662 COVID-19 positive patients in Houston hospitals, which is higher than the highest total reported in a single day, according to Bill McKeon, President and CEO of TMC.
The COVID patients are so much younger now; many are in their 20s and 30s. And some die from the disease.
McKeon blamed politics to some extent. “People have been misinformed,” he said. He spread a myth that has spread among Houstonians that the vaccines affect a person’s fertility.
“There is absolutely no science behind it. Anyone considering having a child should get vaccinated, ”McKeon said. “My daughter is pregnant now. She has been vaccinated and is doing very well. “
Parchem would like to remind every unvaccinated pregnant person that vaccination is an opportunity to protect the baby, your own health and that of your family. The hospitals are already full, and unvaccinated pregnant women are intensive care patients.
“Women get COVID and it’s really devastating,” said Parchem. “We have had situations with a pregnant person in intensive care with COVID pneumonia and their unvaccinated partner is there – that regret is deep and heartbreaking. People feel like they haven’t done everything they could have avoided.
“Two lives are at stake.”
Staff writers Robert Downen and Lisa Gray contributed to this story.