CDC urging pregnant women to get vaccinated to help protect their babies

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ga. — The CDC is strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, but is now issuing a special call for expectant mothers.

Melinda Wellborn was 38-weeks-pregnant when she found herself struggling to breathe and running a high fever, so she went to an emergency room to get checked out.

“They had told me that had I waited another day to come in, [my baby] probably would have been a stillborn,” the Fayette County mother told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.

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Wellborn said doctors diagnosed her with COVID-19 and pneumonia on September 8. Within less than an hour, they were preparing her for an emergency C-section to save her baby.

“[My baby] wasn’t moving like she was supposed to,” said Wellborn, “and her heart rate had had dipped. Since I wasn’t getting the oxygen that I needed to in my lungs, she wasn’t getting what she needed.”

She felt anxiety and fear during the procedure, until she finally heard her baby cry when it was over. Wellborn named her Aria and says she’s at home with her and healthy, even though Wellborn herself is on oxygen as she recovers from the virus.

The CDC says only 31% of pregnant women are vaccinated. Wellborn was not one of them.

“I personally would not get vaccinated if I had to do this all over again,” she said. “But I would encourage other people to do their research.”

Deep vaccine hesitancy among pregnant women prompted the CDC to issue an emergency recommendation on Wednesday for all pregnant women to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Atlanta-based agency says 22 pregnant women died in August from COVID-19, which is the most during the entire pandemic.

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“We know that the consequences of being infected with COVID when you’re pregnant can be devastating for both the mother and for her baby,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson with Emory University. “So really, the best way to protect your baby is to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Jamieson says all the research she has reviewed showed the vaccine is safe for mothers and their babies.

Researchers have also found that vaccinated mothers can protect their babies from getting infected too.

“Especially for breastfeeding moms, there is studies that show that the antibodies do pass through the milk again, which is very encouraging,” said Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, medical director at Revive Atlanta MD.

The CDC recommendation from the CDC could be especially important in Georgia, where women of color have been at risk for pregnancy complications for years.

“The risk of a pregnant person that is a person of color is already high as far as complications, maternal death rates,” said Olivia Campbell, owner of Lilies of Life Birth Services. “But I try to present my clients with evidence-based research or evidence-based information so that they can use to make decisions for themselves.”

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For Wellborn, she and her husband are unable to work for at least the next few weeks while she recovers from COVID-19 at home. She is raising money to help with expenses. But most of all, she’s glad she has a healthy baby by her side.

“I’m very grateful that she’s here,” she said.

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