The number of active COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System is steady. Today, 38 patients with the active virus are being treated, the same as the prior two days. Only five of those 38 are vaccinated. 17 patients are in the ICU, up from 16 yesterday and only two of those patients are vaccinated. Ten are on ventilators, up from nine yesterday. 40 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, the same as yesterday. That’s a total of 78 patients, the same as yesterday. HaysMed has 15 total patients, the same as yesterday.
Today on the Morning Medical Update, the topic focused on unvaccinated pregnant women, who are getting seriously ill compared to the first surge in COVID cases. Dr. Carrie Wienke, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at The University of Kansas Health System, and Dr. Marc Parrish with maternal fetal medicine at The University of Kansas Health System, joined the program to discuss many of the questions around COVID and pregnancy.
The CDC is doubling down on its recommendation that people who are pregnant get the COVID vaccine as doctors across the country are seeing an increase in the number of pregnant patients hospitalized with severe cases of COVID. CDC statistics show that as of July 31, only 23 percent of those who are pregnant had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We know that there’s a lot of fear and hesitancy out there and we hear it daily when we talk to our patients,” Dr. Wienke said about the patient reluctance to get the COVID vaccine. “What we are seeing in the past few weeks and months is that Delta (variant) is hitting our pregnant patients and postpartum moms much stronger than the first wave.”
Dr. Parrish agreed. “We are seeing a lot of folks that are still very hesitant to get the vaccine, because of the potential risks the vaccine could have on the pregnancy,” he said. “But what they need to realize is that the data is overwhelming in support of pregnant moms getting the vaccine. What we know to this point is that there are no adverse pregnancy risks with the vaccine, but certainly well-documented risks with the virus and pregnancy.”
They said it has been a big surprise to see the level of distrust in the experts about this important topic. They hear or see other information from random sources, but the doctors are following the science and providing guidance based on their expertise and powerful, effective science.
“So in all of the studies that we have from the very beginning, there has not been a single safety scare in our data points that has even made us pause about the safety,” said Dr. Wienke. “I think when you walk into an ICU and you see any patient laying there, that’s hard. And then when it’s a really young person, it really hits a nerve.”
Dr. Parrish tries to be understanding about their concerns and share not only CDC data, but experiences he is seeing.
“They want to do anything that they can to protect their babies,” Dr. Parrish said about vaccine hesitancy. “What I try to counter is with the data that we do have – not only what gets published – but patient like to hear what we’re seeing in our own patient population. Even with giving my reassurance that if you were my wife, my sister, close friend…I would say you should get the vaccine.”
One of the questions was about the impact of COVID infections on pre-term birth. Dr. Parrish said that COVID infections can lead to pre-term births. In one unfortunate situation, the mother can be so sick with COVID, that the baby has to be delivered to help with the resuscitation of the mother. Another situation is that the body’s system is forcing the delivery of the baby early because there is something severely wrong with the maternal system. Any time a baby is born prematurely, there is more risk for injury to the baby.
“What is keeping me up at night is not the number of positive, it’s the severe disease, and it is worrisome that these are in unvaccinated women,” said Dr. Weinke when comparing pregnant COVID patients last year versus this year.
A question was asked around a myth about the vaccine causing infertility. The doctors reiterated that there is no evidence of this happening. And a recent popular Facebook post about it was full of misinformation.
“It’s infuriating,” said Dr. Weinke. “Overwhelmingly, we can prove there’s no evidence that this is going to cause infertility.”
The doctors acknowledge there is a lot of different sources of information out there, but the bottom line is listening to the experts – your doctor – in taking care of yourself and your family.
“If you want to protect your baby, protect yourself,” said Dr. Parrish. “We’re going to tell you every day to get the vaccine.”
Friday, September 17 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. On the Follow-Up Friday program, the special guest will be former Kansas City Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt to talk about how COVID is changing the NFL and sports.
NOTE: Journalists should rejoin the Morning Medical Update at 8am as doctors are growing too busy again for individual interview requests. Please bring questions or send to firstname.lastname@example.org until further notice. Thanks for all you do and helping to keep the community safe with your reporting.
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