Soon-to-be moms have higher risk of serious diseases like COVID. Why aren’t more of them vaccinated?

New moms who have caught COVID-19 have protective antibodies in their breast milk for about 10 months, according to new research out of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. It’s great news for parents concerned about protecting their newborns from the coronavirus. 

The more troubling news is how to protect pregnant women from catching the virus in the first place. The CDC says the vaccine is safe for women, but only about a quarter of expectant moms are fully vaccinated. 

Pregnant women are more at risk for serious disease, says gynecologist Rachel Villanueva, who is the president of the National Medical Association and a professor at NYU. 

“[Pregnant women are] more likely to need to be hospitalized, more likely to end up in an intensive care unit setting, needing a ventilator to assist with the breathing, and, unfortunately, even increased risk of death,” Villanueva tells KCRW.

She says expectant moms are more reluctant in part because of vaccine misinformation, but also are concerned for the welfare of their children in general. 

To reassure her patients, Villanueva says she communicates the safety and benefits of the vaccine, and provides moms with literature they can read through themselves. 

There aren’t many circumstances where she’d recommend a patient to abstain from COVID vaccination, she adds.