Results of analysis also show they have a much higher incidence of dying in the hospital than those without the virus.
Pregnant women who had the SARS-CoV-2 virus had double the risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and 4 times the risk of dying in the hospital than pregnant women who did not have COVID-19, according to the results of a study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UMSOM) Institute of Human Virology.
In the study of hospitalized women in 6 African countries, investigators found that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should particularly avoid getting COVID-19 and protect themselves with the available vaccines.
“If the mother does not do well, then the baby does not do well either. As we do not yet have vaccines for babies less than 6 months old, pregnant women should get the vaccine to protect their unborn children and newborns,” Nadia Sam-Agudu, MD, associate professor of Pediatrics at UMSOM, said in a statement.
Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccines that are indicated for use in pregnancy are safe, and there is emerging data demonstrating protection for mothers and newborns, she said.
The African Forum for Research and Education in Health Research Collaboration on COVID-19 Pregnancy conducted the study. Investigators examined data on 1315 women who were hospitalized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda. Of the 1315 individuals, 510 were pregnant with COVID-19, 403 were not pregnant and had COVID-19, and 402 were pregnant but did not have COVID-19.
Women with other risk factors, such as diabetes, a history of tuberculosis, HIV, or sickle cell disease, were at greater risk for severe COVID-19.
Investigators found that approximately 32% of pregnant women with COVID-19 needed in-hospital oxygen therapy compared with 16% of pregnant women without COVID-19. Approximately 19% of pregnant women with COVID-19 were admitted to the intensive care unit compared with 6% of pregnant women who did not have COVID-19.
Among those who were hospitalized with COVID-19, 10% of those who were pregnant died compared with the 5% who were not pregnant.
“I would like to appeal to health care providers to consider the data with respect to vaccine safety for pregnant women and to counsel women to help them consider the vaccine in light of the consequences of COVID-19,” Sam-Agudu said. “Knowing that we have tools to prevent this disease from progressing, we should be more intentional, educational, and supportive about vaccination in pregnancy, so that pregnant women or women who plan to become pregnant can access and receive vaccines.”.
COVID-19 vaccination rates remain much lower in Africa compared with the rest of the world, with full vaccination rates in African countries not topping 40%, according to the statement.
COVID-19 vaccination rates are likely to be much lower among pregnant women in these settings, according to investigators.
Additionally, African countries still have inconsistent and low COVID-19 vaccine supplies because of persistent inequality in access to global vaccine manufacturing and supply.
The findings were published on June 8, 2022, in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Six-country African study shows COVID-19 can be dangerous in pregnancy. EurekAlert. News release. July 18, 2022. Accessed July 19, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/959156