Raising awareness about the need for COVID-19 and flu vaccines during pregnancy

Published: Oct. 11, 2023 at 9:14 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tis’ the season for rolling up your sleeve and getting flu shots and now a new COVID-19 shot.

Pregnancy brings a lot of joy and worries for new moms. But it also comes with a heightened risk if they get sick with COVID or the flu. The Pregnant and Protected campaign aims to get the word out that the shots are safe.

”There’s been a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to the vaccine, just from people who have made that decision not to get it themselves,” said mom Ariona Whalen.

Ariona Whalen tuned out the noise and got her vaccine at four months pregnant.

“I knew pretty much as soon as they made the vaccine available that I would be getting it more so for the people around me than protection for myself, even though that is important,” she noted.

Knowing it could protect her at the time unborn baby was the other big factor in her decision-making.

“I was aware that they that my body could make antibodies if I got it and potentially help him as well be protected against COVID-19 once he got here, so that was factored into my decision,” added Whalen.

But combating misinformation is still a major obstacle that Getty Israel at Sisters in Birth has noticed when talking about both COVID-19 and flu vaccines with pregnant patients.

“Mississippi has one of the highest rates of pregnant women who did not get vaccinated against COVID-19 and a significant number of pregnant women who died from a COVID-19 infection,” explained Getty Israel, CEO and Executive Director of Sisters in Birth.

Israel noticed there’s a lack of awareness about why these women need to get their shots without delay.

“I don’t see a concerted effort on the part of any entity in the state to target pregnant women,” she said.

She’s gotten a grant to raise awareness from the CDC Foundation but is disappointed that others aren’t making it a priority.

“We should be working comprehensively around the state with different partners to educate women about this to encourage women to do this for themselves and for their baby,” explained Israel. “Because the last thing a pregnant woman wants is to be prematurely hospitalized, and to be in the ICU, to have a premature baby or to die as a result of COVID-19 or the flu. And both or all of those instances are heightened when she’s not vaccinated.”

Sisters in Birth is using community health workers to educate pregnant women with a particular focus on state employees and low-income women.

For more information about the vaccines during pregnancy, click HERE.

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