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DES MOINES, IOWA — The “full force” of Iowa’s hospital systems and state and local health officials came together Wednesday to send a single, unified message to pregnant women: get vaccinated now against COVID-19, both for yourself and your unborn child.

Across the state, doctors are seeing a rush of unvaccinated pregnant women in the ICU, pre-term babies in the NICU and worse – still births and mothers lost to the virus. All of this can be prevented by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a wide-ranging group of central Iowa physicans and health leaders said during a joint news conference on Wednesday.

Last week the FDA released a new report after studying thousands of pregnancies. It found that the vaccine does not cross the placenta – so a fetus doesn’t absorb it. However, the unborn baby will gain antibodies from the mother, giving them more protection from the virus from birth. The study just reinforced existing data and recommendations for pregnant women to get vaccinated.

While the vaccine is recommended for all eligible Americans, physicians say it is even more important for pregnant women. When pregnant, women are naturally more susceptible to respiratory viruses – like COVID-19 and the flu. That makes it even more paramount for pregnant women to take the extra steps to protect themselves and their child.

Dr. Neil Mandsager from MercyOne shared the story an unvaccinated mother who is currently being treated at the hospital. He says she was 29 weeks pregnant when she came to the hospital suffering from a severe pulmonary infection brought on by COVID-19.

“She got so sick so quickly that we didn’t think she’d make it through the night so we delivered her, knowing that the only chance for this baby was to put it in the hands of our expert NICU staff as opposed to leaving the baby with mom – knowing that if the mom doesn’t survive the baby’s not going to survive,” said Dr. Mandsager, “We now a have a baby that’s in the NICU – that’s doing relatively well – but is going to spend a couple of months in NICU where he wouldn’t have had to if mom had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. mom is still struggling to survive. She continues to be in critical condition, on a ventilator … we’re not sure that she is going to survive.”

Dr. Erin Lehman with UnityPoint says that case is not an isolated one. She says it has been months she hasn’t seen at least one unvaccinated pregnant woman being treated for COVID-19 complications. She says what so many people seem to forget is that the vaccine will prevent you from getting dangerously sick, even if it doesn’t stop a ‘breakthrough’ case.

“We do know it (will) lessen their chance of both getting an infection and having a more severe infection – which is probably more important than protecting them from getting it because a more severe infection can lead to these other complications, including pre-term delivery,” said Dr. Lehman.