Doctors’ plea to pregnant women in Broward: ‘If you love that baby, please go get vaccinated’ against COVID

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Dr. Sunil D. Kumar said on Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic has dominated his life for more than a year. This latest surge in COVID-19 cases in Broward County, he said, has been the worst of all, because he is dealing with young people — including young pregnant women.

Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez-Garcia, a maternal-fetal medicine Specialist, agrees with Kumar. The high-risk obstetrician has been treating Broward Health Medical Center patients for the last 17 years. He said the COVID-19 symptomatic cases during the last three months have increased “tremendously.”

Kumar and Gonzalez-Garcia were among the doctors at Broward Health Medical Center who were devastated when an unvaccinated woman recently died of complications with COVID-19 after giving birth to a baby boy. They believe her death was preventable if she would have been vaccinated against COVID.

“This baby will never know his mother and this woman never saw her child and that’s so, so sad and it should never happen,” Gonzalez-Garcia said during a news conference on Tuesday in Coral Springs.

Kumar, the chief of staff and medical director of Broward Health Medical Center’s intensive care unit, said some unvaccinated new mothers’ conditions have deteriorated right after they had their babies.

“Not able to hold that baby and not able to see that baby for days and weeks it’s really unfortunate and this is preventable ... please, please go get vaccinated ... if the mom is vaccinated the antibodies can be transmitted over to the baby,” said Kumar, who specializes in critical care medicine and pulmonary medicine.

Kumar’s message to pregnant women: “If for no other reason, if you love that baby, please go get vaccinated.”

In pregnancy, women don’t have the capacity to breathe that adults who are not pregnant have, so when COVID hurts the lungs, it can get “really bad, really quickly,” Gonzalez-Garcia said.

“What surprises me the most is the amount of pregnant women, not in labor, who are just 20, 25, 30 weeks pregnant, and they show up ... unable to breathe, coughing a storm, fever, feeling terrible and when you check their oxygen levels, they are super low. Something that neither mother nor fetus can take very well,” Gonzalez-Garcia said.

Dr. Joshua D. Lenchus, Broward Health Medical Center’s regional chief medical officer, said the two largest organizations that take care of pregnant women, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, agreed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that teenagers and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant need to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Despite this, Lenchus said only about one in four pregnant women have been vaccinated causing those other three who are not vaccinated to face almost a three times higher likelihood of being hospitalized because of COVID-19.

“The benefit of vaccination far exceeds the risk,” Lenchus said.

Dr. Mary-Beatrice Squire, an obstetrician, said she has seen some young pregnant women who should have been going home with their babies, but didn’t because they couldn’t recover from COVID-19. She said she has seen their health deteriorate in the hospital, as they get diagnosed with pneumonia and with respiratory failure. It’s “very frightening” to witness the “current frequency” with which women are requiring ventilator support and ICU admission, she said.

“Women are very smart and they’ve been very concerned about anything to introduce to their bodies during pregnancy. I see them quit smoking cold turkey. I see them modify their diet, their exercise, lot’s of things that they have changed in their lifestyle to protect themselves, and their babies to have a safe pregnancy and delivery,” Squire said. “Unfortunately, when they are not vaccinated, not all steps have been taken to prevent COVID-19 and the severe effects and complications.”

Facebook Live: Broward Health news conference

About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.