Doctor pleads with pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccine

Reporter: Nicole Gabe
Dr. Stephanie Stovall, who specializes in pediatric infectious disease, speaks during a Lee Health press conference, where she stressed the importance for pregnant women to be vaccinated for COVID-19 Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.

A Lee Health infectious disease specialist is making a plea for its patients, as kids’ ICU beds near capacity, and NICU is over capacity. She says women who are pregnant should get vaccinated, or expecting mothers risk their lives and the lives of their newborns.

Dr. Stephanie Stovall says COVID-19 can send pregnant women into premature labor and sometimes force doctors to deliver babies early to save a mother’s life. But she says there is a solution if women are willing to follow her advice.

Stovall recommends everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, but she also has a message for girls and women who are 12 years and older.

“This is a really vulnerable population,” Stovall said. “One thing is that COVID hits them harder, and they are carrying a life inside of them that is also going to be hit harder.”

Stovall specializes in pediatric infectious disease.

“[COVID-19] sometimes, it causes preterm labor,” Stovall said. “Sometimes, mom needs to be delivered in order to save her life. There are many complications that can happen with pregnant women and COVID, and that’s part of it.”

The end result is that the NICU is full, so is Lee Health. The system is at 100% capacity Monday, with 92 COVID-19 patients admitted Sunday alone. Stoval said the NICU has never been beyond capacity before.

During Lee Health’s news conference to begin the week, CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci called the numbers unprecedented.

“It’s very worrisome, as we are seeing more and more children,” Antonucci said. “You’ve heard me say before that throughout the pandemic we usually have one or two children with COVID, and today, we had 15 kids with COVID at Golisano, and we are opening up all sorts of different spaces in the hospital for these young patients.”

Lee Health holds vaccination clinics at Gulf Coast Medical Center 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday every week.

Doctors say the COVID-19 vaccine is the most immediate solution to helping hospitals.

“On behalf of these folks, we beg you,” Stovall said. “Please go get vaccinated.”

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