Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Lauren Lewis originally mistook the dry cough for allergies.
In early November 2020, she attended an outdoor concert with her mother and younger daughter in Dallas, a couple of days after begrudgingly attending a mandatory in-person meeting at work.
When I got home I was like, [The cough] is probably because I was around all the plants and being outside. That probably aggravated my sinuses, said Lewis, 33, who lives in Dallas. Didnt think much of it, just went to bed. But the next morning I woke up and I felt like a train hit me.
After being told that some co-workers also felt sick, Lewis decided to get tested for COVID-19 and her results came back positive. But her situation was more complex than most people who have contracted the virus because she was three months pregnant at the time.
Nights were the worst, she said, with the difficulty breathing making it feel like a weight was on your chest. Even getting up to go to the bathroom was a chore that required help from her husband and, at one point, her daily diet mainly consisted of just chicken broth and Pedialyte.
Although Lewis was never hospitalized with COVID-19 and later recovered, the experience still sticks with her, and when the coronavirus vaccine became available to high-risk Texans at the start of the year, Lewis jumped at the chance to get vaccinated. On April 23, she delivered a baby boy, Langston, with no major complications.
Not all pregnant women are as eager as Lewis about getting vaccinated, however.
Pregnant women have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States: As of Sept. 4, about 25% of pregnant women ages 18 to 49 have received at least one vaccine dose nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thats significantly less than the most recent national average for that age group, which is about 61%.
The Texas Department of State Health Services currently does not collect vaccination data on pregnant women, said Lara Anton, an agency spokesperson, and also does not track cases, hospitalizations or deaths among this group.
Doctors said theres no single reason for the low vaccination numbers, although vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have played a role.
Recently, pregnant patients with COVID-19 have come in to Texas hospitals at levels not seen earlier in the pandemic, according to some doctors, illustrating the severity and contagiousness of the delta variant amid the states most recent COVID-19 surge.
Were just seeing a lot more of them progress [to serious illness] very quickly, said Dr. Manisha Gandhi, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Texas Childrens Pavilion for Women and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Last August, more than 15 pregnant women were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Texas Childrens Pavilion for Women. This August, the number nearly doubled, according to Texas Childrens.
This variant is much more aggressive, [and] pregnant women are getting sicker much faster, Gandhi said.
The CDCs recent recommendation that pregnant people get the vaccine has given medical professionals hope that more will do so. But they know it will still be a battle to overcome some of the hesitancy that has set in since the start of the pandemic.
Women want to make the best decision for them and their unborn child, and its a really difficult position when they dont include pregnant or lactating women in the [vaccine clinical] trial, said Dr. Teresa Baker, professor and regional chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.
Pregnant and lactating women have long been excluded from initial clinical trials due to the possibility of putting an unborn fetus at risk, Baker said, so it wasnt a surprise that the same thing happened during the development of COVID-19 vaccines. But with the lack of initial information about how COVID-19 affects pregnant people and mixed guidance by CDC and leading medical organizations, many pregnant people felt left in the dark about the best way to protect themselves.
We just were working with a lot of unknowns for a long time and that made it uncomfortable for everyone, but I think were catching up slowly, Baker said.
A recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that the vaccines offer similar protection for both pregnant and nonpregnant women.
Dr. Jerald Goldstein, founder and medical director of the Fertility Specialists of Texas, said false claims circulating on social media that women will become infertile or sterile from being vaccinated have contributed to some of the hesitancy.
The online misinformation has definitely created a lot of work for doctors in terms of talking to patients who really, really believe that, Goldstein said.
According to a recent study in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine journal, F&S Reports, neither previous illness with COVID-19 nor antibodies produced from vaccination to COVID-19 will cause sterility.
Studies have also shown that receiving the vaccine does not lead to an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects.
Gandhi, the maternal-fetal specialist at Texas Childrens, said the most important part of her day now is making sure patients realize the benefits of getting vaccinated and how much it reduces the risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and having to be intubated or enduring a premature delivery.
She has also urged people who are pregnant to not wait until they deliver their baby to get vaccinated.
The highest risk time is while theyre pregnant, Gandhi said. ... Getting vaccines [generate] antibodies that can cross the placenta and potentially protect the baby so there's actually a bonus: Youre also adding to the protection of your baby who may get exposed after delivery.
Austin resident Brittany Clay has never really seen herself as an early adopter to much in life. However, things changed once she learned she was pregnant in October 2020.
By then, she had already lost a family member to the virus. In July, her uncle, who had colon cancer, died from complications of COVID-19. Then, in October, her grandfather also died from complications of the virus and her parents landed in the hospital with pneumonia after contracting COVID-19.
We said our goodbyes to my uncle over the phone, we said our goodbyes to my grandfather over the phone, and when I knew things were not going well for my parents was when they stopped answering their phones, said Clay, 33. They couldnt speak on the phone anymore. It was too difficult for them with breathing. And it was like, Wow, were literally saying goodbye to our loved ones, were telling them its OK to go over the phone on speakerphone. It was the most horrible thing.
It was such a scary time for our family, and when you go through circumstances like that, its just not that difficult of a decision to get the vaccine, Clay said.
But the vaccine wasnt available to high-risk people until December, and Clay still wanted to do her homework first. In January, about six months before the CDC recommended pregnant people get the coronavirus vaccine, Clay and her husband started collecting reports and studies about pregnant women and COVID-19.
Clay said she also gravitated to reading about experiences shared on social media by doctors who were pregnant themselves and got the vaccine.
Being pregnant in a pandemic has so many added stressors and so many additional layers of fear and unpredictability, so much of it can be out of your control, Clay said. So then to add this additional unknown of this vaccine that, you know, has been around for nine months is a really scary decision, and I just try to honor and respect the fact that this is a decision that people have to make on their own.
During her research, she also reconnected with Lewis, an old classmate from Texas Christian University, through social media. Clay was curious to hear about Lewis experience with COVID-19 during pregnancy.
Since reconnecting, they have bonded over motherhood and the shared experience of getting vaccinated while pregnant. Clay was fully vaccinated by February and delivered a baby girl named Navy on June 22.
I later went back to [Lauren] after I had Navy, and I was like, You might have saved my life. Thank you so much for sharing your COVID experience with me, Clay said.
For both women, the importance of getting vaccinated was underscored by the news that one of their TCU classmates who was unvaccinated had died from complications of the virus after delivering her baby.
That has felt so haunting and so sad, Clay said. She was just so young and her family is now really trying to get the word out about the vaccines, and I recognize the severity of the cases are just getting more and more severe for pregnant women.
Lewis has made it a personal mission to encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated and posted videos of herself being vaccinated on social media.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me, Lewis said on video in February after receiving her second dose. Im very pregnant, so I have a different perspective because Ive had COVID.
Lewis said she hopes other expectant mothers will heed her advice.
I mean, [COVID-19] really sucked the life out of me, Lewis said. ... Honestly, I'm waiting to go get my third shot. I want to get it because I dont ever want to feel the way I felt with COVID, and I dont want anybody to ever feel that way when they dont have to.
Disclosure: Texas Christian University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Join us Sept. 20-25 at the 2021 Texas Tribune Festival. Tickets are on sale now for this multi-day celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the days news, curated by The Texas Tribunes award-winning journalists. Learn more.
Texas doctors, seeing unprecedented numbers of pregnant patients with COVID-19, urge pregnant people to get vaccinated - The Texas Tribune
- Natural immunity is good. Getting vaccinated after being sick with COVID-19 is better. - USA TODAY - October 19th, 2021
- COVID-19 and pregnancy: Women regret not getting the vaccine - The Boston Globe - October 19th, 2021
- Atea's antiviral pill fails to clear Covid-19, forcing a re-think - STAT - STAT - October 19th, 2021
- Governor Hochul Announces New COVID-19 Data Hub Website to Expand Public Access, Centralize Information and Improve the User Experience - ny.gov - October 19th, 2021
- Nearly every person in Iran seems to have had covid-19 at least once - New Scientist - October 19th, 2021
- Convicted murderer Robert Durst hospitalized with COVID-19 - ABC News - October 19th, 2021
- Biden Admin to Lift COVID-19 Travel Restrictions for Vaccinated - The National Law Review - October 19th, 2021
- Lawyer: Robert Durst is in the hospital with COVID-19 - NPR - October 17th, 2021
- State records 4,485 new COVID-19 infections; 83 in Valley - Sunbury Daily Item - October 17th, 2021
- A dad who traveled 1,200 miles for Covid-19 care is finally going home. Here's what he wants you to know - CNN - October 17th, 2021
- More Covid-19 boosters are on the horizon. But not everyone will need one, experts say - CNN - October 17th, 2021
- Cam Newton reportedly receives COVID-19 vaccine as he looks to sign with NFL team - Sporting News - October 17th, 2021
- Dozens of lawsuits seek to force hospitals to treat COVID-19 with ivermectin | TheHill - The Hill - October 17th, 2021
- The Children Who Lost a Parent to COVID-19 - The Atlantic - October 17th, 2021
- Reddit channel posts stories of anti-vaxxers dying of Covid, scaring fence-sitters into getting the shot - CNBC - October 17th, 2021
- Fans excited to celebrate game day in Tiger Stadium without COVID-19 protocols - WBRZ - October 17th, 2021
- Analysis: With boosters, masks and Green Pass, Israel sees a COVID-19 wave in retreat - Reuters - October 17th, 2021
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 318 total new cases; Death toll rises to 2,189; Active cases at 5,868 - KELOLAND.com - October 17th, 2021
- Some Sixers thought Ben Simmons lied about COVID-19 exposure to try to get out of Game 7 vs. Hawks, per report - CBS Sports - October 17th, 2021
- COVID-19 testing can be hard to come by in Northeast Ohio - News 5 Cleveland - October 17th, 2021
- More Victorians died of COVID-19 in August than any other point in the pandemic - Victoria Advocate - October 17th, 2021
- Kyrie Irving, angry parents and personal choice in the Covid-19 culture war - CNN - October 17th, 2021
- Is there truly no COVID-19 in Turkmenistan? Experts weigh in - Medical News Today - October 14th, 2021
- Wednesday, October 13, 2021 COVID-19 Updates | Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - COVID-19 - October 14th, 2021
- Wisconsin hospitals urge COVID-19 vaccination for staff now required to have shot - Wisconsin Public Radio News - October 14th, 2021
- Texas considers law that would ban COVID-19 mandates in the state - NPR - October 14th, 2021
- Legislature doesn't notify everyone in hearing with COVID-19 exposures - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - October 14th, 2021
- The hidden cost of Covid-19: years of life lost among the young - STAT - STAT - October 14th, 2021
- WVU Today | WVU School of Public Health aids state efforts to boost COVID-19 vaccination among minority communities - WVU Today - October 14th, 2021
- DPH chief sees very good trend on COVID-19 cases - WWLP.com - October 14th, 2021
- New Navy Guidance Will Discharge Sailors Refusing COVID-19 Vaccination Without Exemption - USNI News - USNI News - October 14th, 2021
- NEW: 45 deaths in Nevada, but COVID-19 cases and test positivity continue to fall - KLAS - 8 News Now - October 14th, 2021
- UnitedHealth expects smaller hit from COVID-19 in 2022 - Reuters - October 14th, 2021
- Wisconsin students have to do safety drills every year. With COVID-19, some schools are approaching them differently - Wisconsin Public Radio News - October 14th, 2021
- New Zealand reports biggest rise in COVID-19 cases in six weeks - Reuters - October 14th, 2021
- Columbus Division of Police officer dies after COVID-19 illness - NBC4 WCMH-TV - October 14th, 2021
- Bears RB Damien Williams placed on COVID-19 list - The Athletic - October 14th, 2021
- 86 new COVID-19 cases reported for Juneau Oct. 9 thru 11 City and Borough of Juneau - City and Borough of Juneau - October 12th, 2021
- Appleton earmarks $2 million in federal COVID-19 aid to support renovation and expansion of library - Post-Crescent - October 12th, 2021
- Sydney COVID-19 cases ease further as focus shifts to reviving economy - Reuters - October 12th, 2021
- Whats the deal with NJs unspent COVID-19 relief? - NJ Spotlight - October 12th, 2021
- Ingham County health officer: COVID-19 is here to stay - WOODTV.com - October 12th, 2021
- Denby Fawcett: Covid-19 Can't Be Wiped Out But It Can Be Managed - Honolulu Civil Beat - October 12th, 2021
- Howard University Homecoming closed to alumni due to COVID-19 pandemic - FOX 5 DC - October 12th, 2021
- Is it COVID-19, the flu, or RSV? Doctor offers tips - NBC4 WCMH-TV - October 12th, 2021
- Two Bengals placed on reserve/COVID-19 list after playing Sunday - Acme Packing Company - October 12th, 2021
- Indiana sees decline in first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccinations - WANE - October 12th, 2021
- Boston Marathon organizer says 93 percent of participants are vaccinated against COVID-19 - Boston.com - October 12th, 2021
- When Will the Covid-19 Pandemic Be Over? - Gizmodo - October 12th, 2021
- How your emotional response to the COVID-19 pandemic changed your behavior and your sense of time - KUT - October 12th, 2021
- Amazon sued by warehouse workers over COVID-19 screening pay - Reuters - October 12th, 2021
- Fauci says he 'strongly suspects' that COVID-19 deaths will go down in the winter | TheHill - The Hill - October 10th, 2021
- Are COVID-19's big waves over? Experts are split | TheHill - The Hill - October 10th, 2021
- A look at major COVID-19 developments over the past week - The Atlanta Journal Constitution - October 10th, 2021
- Ivey extends limited COVID-19 health emergency to Oct. 31 - WIAT - CBS42.com - October 10th, 2021
- COVID-19 case rates remain high in Inland Northwest - The Spokesman Review - October 10th, 2021
- Johnson: Hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients 'doesn't mean there's some massive crisis' - Wisconsin Public Radio News - October 10th, 2021
- Onondaga County and Kinney Drugs to host COVID-19 booster clinic Thursday, October 14 - CNYcentral.com - October 10th, 2021
- So far this year, schools report far higher rates of COVID-19 in students, staff - WBUR - October 10th, 2021
- Learning the lessons of health care worker burnout from Covid-19- STAT - STAT - October 7th, 2021
- Explainer: What researchers say about the long-term effects of COVID-19 - Reuters - October 7th, 2021
- COVID-19 vaccine mandates pressure employees to get their ... - October 7th, 2021
- Public Health urges vaccination as COVID-19 metrics improve, expands booster shot clinic - Communications and Outreach - Communications and Outreach -... - October 7th, 2021
- DHHR reports active COVID-19 cases about the same - West Virginia MetroNews - October 7th, 2021
- Best Practices For Documenting The Covid-19 Vaccination Status Of Employees - Forbes - October 7th, 2021
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 474 total new cases; Death toll rises to 2,170; Active cases at 6,716 - KELOLAND.com - October 7th, 2021
- Here's how one college system kept Covid-19 cases down as they surged throughout the state - CNN - October 7th, 2021
- Hungary has offered help to Romania in treating COVID-19 patients - foreign ministry - Reuters - October 7th, 2021
- Minnesota to expand COVID-19 testing options in schools - Minnesota Public Radio News - October 7th, 2021
- Grant program in Chesapeake on wastewater tests for COVID-19 to possibly expand - 13newsnow.com WVEC - October 7th, 2021
- Onondaga County school switching to remote learning because of Covid-19 cases and quarantines - syracuse.com - October 7th, 2021
- Newest state workers face termination over COVID-19 mandates - The CT Mirror - October 7th, 2021
- NCDHHS: 70% of NC adults have received first dose of COVID-19 vaccine - WNCT - October 7th, 2021
- COVID-19 reinfection likely for the unvaccinated - WANE - October 7th, 2021
- Austin PD will start testing uniformed officers for COVID-19 every week - KXAN.com - October 7th, 2021
- WV Gov. Justice reads through 97 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the most yet - WBOY.com - October 7th, 2021
- Should your vaccination status be on your resume? Heres what experts say - CNBC - October 7th, 2021
- Researchers say Hawaii Health Department officials have refused to share COVID-19 data - Honolulu Star-Advertiser - October 7th, 2021
- Health expert weighs in on where Washington stands in reaching COVID-19 herd immunity - KING5.com - October 7th, 2021
- Patchogue, NY Coronavirus Updates & News For September 29 - October 3rd, 2021