Mississippi’s situation likely is not unique, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Covid-19 deaths in pregnant women in the US appear to have ticked up in August. But health officials in the Magnolia State have been especially vocal about it.
Eight pregnant women died of Covid-19 in Mississippi since July 25, bringing the state’s pandemic total to 15, Dobbs said Thursday.
The 15 ranged in age from 23 to 40, none was fully vaccinated, and only one was partially vaccinated, Dobbs said.
At least 12 of the fetuses survived, often through emergency C-section, and some were severely premature, said Dr. J. Martin Tucker, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He spoke for the 12 cases that his system was involved with; information about the other three cases wasn’t available.
And the state health department says some shot-givers may not have helped the cause: It received anecdotal reports that some pharmacies declined expectant mothers’ requests to get vaccinated, Dobbs said. In response, the health department last week issued a standing order to vaccinate pregnant patients, he said.
The order gives the pharmacies reassurance “that it’s OK and recommended for pregnant to get immunized at any stage in pregnancy,” Dobbs said.
Mississippi still lags the country as a whole in vaccination: 41.7% of the state’s population was fully vaccinated as of Thursday, whereas 54.2% of the US population was, according to the CDC.
“We can do better than that, and we should do better,” Tucker said.
Covid-19 deaths in pregnant women appear to have ticked up, CDC says
However, because only a third of case reports include information on pregnancy status and because it takes jurisdictions two to four weeks to confirm a Covid-19 case in a pregnant woman and report it to the CDC, that number likely is an undercount, CDC spokesman Scott Pauley wrote in an email to CNN.
The frequency of these deaths could be ticking up nationally. The CDC received reports of 15 deaths of pregnant people with Covid-19 in August as of last week — the highest number reported to the agency in a single month, Pauley wrote. The August number could rise as delayed reports come in.
The CDC does not break down these deaths by state because of small overall numbers and privacy concerns. It also does not know how many of the 155 were unvaccinated, Pauley wrote.
Covid-19’s risks to pregnant women
Pregnant women, compared with nonpregnant women, are more at risk of severe disease from Covid-19 — and of hospitalization, being placed into intensive care units, being placed on mechanical ventilation, and death, Tucker told CNN in an interview last week.
As for why, Dobbs pointed in part to changes in pregnant women’s physiology and immune responses, and noted other diseases also generally put pregnant women more at risk.
The Delta variant may present a more pronounced challenge, in part because of its higher viral loads and increased transmissibility, he said.
The CDC’s Pauley said vaccination for pregnant women is “more urgent than ever,” because of “the increased circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant, the low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to Covid-19 infection among pregnant people.”
CDC recommends Covid-19 vaccines for pregnant women
In late July, the ACOG and another leading organization that represents obstetricians and gynecologists also recommended that anyone who is pregnant should be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The ACOG and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said their recommendations were based on safety evidence from thousands of pregnant women.
Studies show vaccine is safe and effective in pregnant women
In a separate analysis, Dr. Elyse Kharbanda of HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis and colleagues said they looked at different CDC data and also included that Covid-19 vaccines don’t raise the risk of miscarriage.
Too few pregnant women got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be able to assess the risk, they said.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.