Jacksonville doctor urges mothers-to-be to get vaccinated for COVID

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The CDC is now urging all pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID-19 amid the surge in delta variant cases.

The agency points to new data showing that the vaccines did not increase the risk of pregnancy complications.

Dr. Kathryn Villano, a Jacksonville maternal-fetal medicine doctor says hospitals are seeing more pregnant women getting severe cases of the virus. She’s encouraging mothers-to-be to get vaccinated.

“When we compare the moms who did receive the vaccine during pregnancy, there appears to be no difference between the normal rates of those type of complications and the rates we’re seeing in women who are vaccinated,” Villano said.

The doctor pointed out that there are always a risk of complications -- from high blood pressure to miscarriages -- during any pregnancy. She said the CDC has been monitoring more than 136,000 pregnant women who had received a vaccine.

News4Jax asked Villano about the hesitancy for some to get vaccinated.

“Well certainly, and not without good reason,” she said. “Pregnant woman need to be concerned about what they put in their bodies.”

Villano says studies also show that people don’t have to wait until a certain time during their pregnancy to safely get the shot.

Katie Keith, an Orlando resident, says she and her husband have been trying to have a baby for more than a year -- before the COVID pandemic. She said her husband was vaccinated, but she’s heard many mixed messages that have added to her angst.

She learned she would need to try in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“If I got sick in the middle of IVF, then i would have had to start the entire process all over again,” she explained.

The agency had previously encouraged pregnant women to consider vaccination. Not quite a full endorsement for Keith, whose family and friends were just as skeptical.

“I was listening to those articles that people were sending me, and just waiting to hear more information about pregnancy,” she said.

The advice from the CDC is a relief for Keith, who is taking a short break from IVF. She said she immediately contacted her IVF team for more guidance, and that she’s getting her first Pfizer shot tomorrow. Her second is scheduled for September.

The CDC advice comes as hospitals in hot spots around the U.S. see disturbing numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus. The CDC recommendation echoes recent guidance from top obstetrician groups.

Pregnant women run a higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.