Local OBGYN urges vaccines for all patients following death of Elgin mother due to COVID-19

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 9:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The CDC urged pregnant women to get the COVID-19 vaccine last month, but some expectant mothers are still hesitant.

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One local Elgin mother recently died of complications due to COVID-19. Sara Caitlin Vilchez, the mother of four, was only 31 years old.

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She was waiting until after delivering her baby to get vaccinated due to concerns about how it may impact her pregnancy. Her family is now calling on all expectant mothers to get their shot.

Following her tragic death, Dr. Todd Kraemer, a board-certified OBGYN physician & owner of Kraemer Women’s Care, is amplifying this message.

“We’re counseling every single patient that walks in the door of our practice, if you’re here for an annual exam or you’re here for a follow-up OB visit, that the vaccination against COVID-19 is vital for your health,” he said.

Kraemer says COVID is currently the biggest health risk to reproductively-aged women, and that it’s chilling how virulent this infection is on pregnant patients.

“Between me and my partner, we’ve delivered well over 8000 babies between the two of us, and we’ve never had a maternal death until recently,” he said. “And so that’s been 100 percent related to COVID.”

He’s also seen COVID-positive patients experience respiratory failure, something he had yet to see in otherwise healthy women.

However, more common scenarios include patients experiencing flu-like illness, coughing, sore throat, fevers, and body aches.

While there are now more tools to help pregnant women fight COVID infections, such as monoclonal antibody treatments, he says the best protection is getting the shot.

His offices are currently tracking roughly 30 positive COVID positive patients, and monitoring their health status as they self-quarantine. He says these numbers go up every week, though.

While the risk of a severe bout with COVID is low, recent data compiled by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that pregnant women are at increased risk for ICU admission, the need for mechanical ventilation and death, when compared with non-pregnant women.

Some patients have asked him whether the vaccine would hurt their baby. Kraemer says there’s no evidence to support this, and patients can be confident in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

“We’ve been doing flu vaccines in pregnant patients for well over a decade now with no data to support that these vaccines are causing any harm,” he said. “We know that we can’t use live viruses on pregnant patients, and [the COVID vaccine] is not a live virus.”

Other concerns Kraemer has seen from women surrounding the COVID vaccine are questions about whether it would affect one’s ability to breastfeed or whether it could cause infertility. He says numerous medical studies have debunked these claims.

The entire Midlands community is working tirelessly to care for all COVID patients, Kraemer says. He has weekly calls with Dr. Berry Campbell, a high-risk OB with Prisma Health, to discuss progress and updated recommendations.

“Everyone has their role,” Kraemer said. “I think we as a practice have looked at this as, you know, this is a mission that we have. We’re in the business of keeping women healthy, we’re in the business of keeping pregnant patients healthy, this is the biggest opportunity that I’ve seen since I’ve been in practice.”

Kraemer says that while the vast majority of pregnant women should get the vaccine, there are rare instances where it does not make sense to get the shot. If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to a previous vaccine, you should not get vaccinated.

As always, talk with your physician or OBGYN about the plan that is best for you.

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