Since the start of the pandemic, unvaccinated Mississippians with COVID have had double the expected rate of stillbirths. “With COVID, we’ve seen a doubling of the rate of fetal demise, or the death of the baby in the womb after 20 weeks,” Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said at a news conference on Wednesday. “It’s been a real tragedy.”
Seventy-two pregnant people have given birth to stillborn fetuses since the start of the pandemic. During that time period pre-pandemic, only half of those stillbirths would have been expected.
“That’s quite a number of tragedies that, sadly, would be preventable right now,” Dobbs said in regard to the fact that vaccines are now available and recommended for pregnant people in the state.
Additionally, eight pregnant women who were infected with COVID passed away in just the past four weeks. Some of their babies were able to be delivered via C-section.
This unfortunate situation highlights the importance of getting the COVID vaccine — particularly for people who are pregnant, both for the sake of themselves and their baby. Pregnant people with COVID are 22 times more likely to die than those who don’t have the disease, among other complications, according to a study of 2,100 women. Babies born to a parent with COVID are more likely to be premature, which increases their risk of breathing problems, infection, brain bleeding, jaundice, and issues with the intestines, heart, and eyes.
The COVID vaccines are safe during pregnancy and do not increase the risk of miscarriage, according to the CDC. Yet only 24 percent of those expecting a baby have gotten at least one dose.
“We encourage you to please get vaccinated,” said State Epidemiologist Paul Byers, whose own daughter is vaccinated and recently gave birth to a healthy child. “That’s going to be the best way to ensure that you and your babies stay healthy.”
In August, nearly 900 people died from COVID. “Not a single one of them was vaccinated,” Dobbs said. “I feel confident, if they had been vaccinated, every single one of those people would be with us today. It’s a stark and painful truth, but it’s just what reality shows.”