By Dena Vang
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in much of the United States, health care and medical professionals are still urging people to get vaccinated—especially pregnant people and parents with eligible children. In a panel discussion during the W Cobb NMA Institute Harry Blake Empowerment Community Health Fair and Vaccine event in Shreveport, Louisiana, several doctors addressed misinformation and answered questions about COVID to encourage vaccinations in the Black community.
“We had a lot of pregnant women in the ICU,” said Dr. LaTashia Upton, obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical officer for Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport – St. Mary Medical Center. “We’ve had to take medicine to certain levels that we have never had to take it before. We’ve had to perform deliveries on women who were receiving critical care and their babies were going to the NICU to get their critical care. We’ve had to continue to care for these mothers. Thankfully, with medicine and science and the Lord, we’ve gotten a lot of mothers past this and through this. That’s not always the case for everyone everywhere. It’s better for you to get the vaccine and be protected as opposed to taking your chances, getting sick, and potentially ending up in the ICU for critical care. I strongly encourage all women to get the vaccine.”
Pregnant people are at a higher risk of hospitalization and getting severely ill from COVID than non-pregnant people. Pregnancy causes changes in the body that make pregnant people more susceptible to respiratory viruses such as COVID.
“It brings tears when we hear pregnant women are not wanting to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Leonard Weather, obstetrician-gynecologist and W Cobb NMA Institute physician. “If someone is pregnant and they get COVID, then they are 15 times more likely to die. They are 22 times more likely to have problems with their pregnancy. It’s just the opposite of what one thinks if they get the vaccine. The vaccine actually protects them. It helps to have a better pregnancy. It helps to normalize a pregnancy. Please get vaccinated.”
Unvaccinated children also continue to be at risk of contracting the virus. While many children do make a full recovery from COVID, pediatrician Dr. Shaheena Anene said natural immunity is not enough.
“What we’ve found is that people who have natural immunity, [people who] have been infected by COVID-19 but are not vaccinated, are five times more likely to end up having COVID-19 again compared to someone who has been vaccinated. Your vaccine is going to give you a much longer duration of protection and stronger immunity against the virus. I would not rely alone on that natural immunity,” Anene said. “Children are in school now. In some parishes we’ve even removed the mask mandate. Children are in contact with one another. They do spread the virus. They take the virus home, and they spread it to their grandma or their new baby sister. Yes, I absolutely recommend getting these children vaccinated as soon as possible.”
COVID vaccines are now available for everyone ages 5 and older.
To find a vaccine site, search vaccines.gov, text your zip code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.
For resources and toolkits to help you build vaccine confidence in your community, visit the Stay Well Community Health Fair website.