The recent surge of COVID-19 infections in Philadelphia may be reaching its peak, the city’s top doctor said Thursday, but pregnant people remain far behind on vaccinations.
Figures from the day prior show Philadelphia averaging 288 new infections, down from a peak of 307 infections last week, Acting Health Secretary Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said. She attributed the drop in cases partially to recent indoor mask and vaccine mandates by the city.
“Vaccines and masks remain our best weapons against this virus, and Philadelphians have been stepping up. Our data shows us a sharp increase in mask use in the city and an uptick in the rate of new vaccinations in the past few weeks,” the health secretary said, adding that “we still have a long way to go.”
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Currently, more than two-thirds of adults in Philadelphia are fully vaccinated and nearly 82% have had at least one dose, while more than 44,000 children between 12 and 17 years old have also received at least one dose of vaccine, Bettigole said.
However, the vaccination rate among pregnant people remains a concern.
Nationwide, less than 25% of pregnant people have been vaccinated, while health care providers in Philadelphia have also reported many of their pregnant patients being unvaccinated, said Dr. Stacey Kallem, a pediatrician and director of the health department’s Division of Maternal, Child, and Family Health.
“Research shows that pregnant people are at a higher risk of getting severely ill if they have COVID-19. This means that pregnant people with COVID are more likely to be hospitalized, be admitted to an intensive care unit, need a ventilator or even die if they get COVID,” Kallem said, sharing that the risks prompted her to get vaccinated while pregnant.
She added that an infection to a pregnant person can harm the baby, as well, since it increases the chance of a premature birth.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows COVID-19 vaccines to be safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Vaccines not only lower the risk of infection but may also help protect unborn children, since the antibodies developed through vaccines may be transferred in the womb, the CDC found.
“Right now, with the delta variant and high case rates across the country and in our area, it is even more important for pregnant people to get vaccinated,” Kallem said.