INDIANAPOLIS — There's a new health warning for pregnant women as the now dominant and highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.
Doctors say it's more important than ever for expectant moms to get their coronavirus shots because of the toll the virus is taking on those who aren't vaccinated.
"We're being clear with people it is a vaccine recommended for pregnant women, like tetanus or the flu, and that the unfortunate consequences of not getting it can be deadly," said Dr. Julia Kearney, an OB/GYN doctor at Community Hospital North. "And now with the delta variant, we're seeing even more really sick patients coming in pregnant and having to make really difficult decisions about possibly very early preterm delivery."
Savannah Moore, an Indiana woman, recently shared her story on NBC Nightly News. 33 weeks into her pregnancy, Moore wound up on a ventilator and sedated for ten days, delivering her daughter seven weeks premature.
Moore said, "All I could do is cry saying I'm putting my baby in harm's way because I was just too hard-headed to get the vaccine."
Kearney, who gave birth to her daughter Anjali nearly two months ago, understands the hesitation.
"I had to make the decision whether to get vaccinated and decided I'd weigh the risks and benefits," she said.
For Kearney, the decision came quickly. She studied the data and trusted the vaccine.
"I've seen patients die of [coronavirus] in pregnancy so it's not something to be taken lightly. It's serious," she said.
Yet, Kearney is also aware of the mixed messages expectant moms have been getting. While the CDC initially said the vaccine appeared safe for pregnant women it stopped short of encouraging it. Then last week the world's largest obstetrician groups began recommending it, a move Kearney strongly supports.
"If you look at the statistics of nurses and doctors, pregnant nurses and doctors have overwhelmingly chosen to be vaccinated. We have rolled up our sleeves," she said. "We believe in the vaccine and have seen firsthand what happens with severe COVID infections, so we know that risk."
Kearney said she and her colleagues receive a lot of questions and they're happy to walk people through the answers.
She said of the vaccine, "there's no evidence at all it causes birth defects or affects the placenta in any way and there's no evidence it causes infertility."
Kearney said what they are seeing is that babies whose moms were vaccinated have antibodies against COVID-19 "which is what we want since kids can't get vaccinated themselves. We want them to be as protected as they can be."