Despite higher COVID risk, most pregnant Americans remain unvaccinated

Even though there is a higher risk of COVID, the majority of pregnant Americans are still unvaccinated
Click to enlarge the image and toggle caption Victoria Hansen/South Carolina Public Radio Victoria Hansen/South Carolina Public Radio

Kimberly Grice used a walker to walk down her hall from her home in Myrtle Beach to reach her newly painted lavender nursery.

The 36-year old struggled to organize her changing table or hang tiny clothes. She was admitted to hospital with COVID-19, and placed on a ventilator.

Fearing that it could harm the baby, she did not receive the vaccine. Doctors want pregnant women to be aware that the vaccine is safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant mothers that COVID complications could prove fatal for their baby and mother. Two-thirds of pregnant mothers haven't vaccinated.

In the hope of changing minds, the Grices and another South Carolina family share their stories of unvaccinated pregnancies.

Kimberly was rushed to an emergency room in crowded conditions in July. After a six-hour wait, she was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia. Tory, her husband, shares the rest of the journey that she cannot remember. This includes the repeated question the doctor asked to determine if there were complications. If something goes wrong, which life should they save first: Kimberly's, or the baby’s?

"What you want is to say is like both of them." Tory says that this is not the right answer.

Kimberly's liver was failing and doctors recommended an emergency C-section. However, her health improved and she was able to give birth nine weeks earlier.

"You are a miracle!"

Kimberly arrived in Charleston on September 9th, and was still confused. How did she get to Charleston? Who were her doctors and nurses?

They're like, they just need to be seen. They are like you were sick. Kimberly says, "You're a miracle."

Her body was exhausted. Kimberly gave birth on October 22 to Leilani Grice. She was a healthy 7-pound baby girl. 2 ounces

Click to enlarge the image and toggle caption Victoria Hansen/South Carolina Public Radio Victoria Hansen/South Carolina Public Radio

Dr. Rebecca Wineland says, "The risk of putting you life at risk and your unborn child’s life at danger is not worth it." She is the Medical University of South Carolina's director of labor and birth in Charleston.

Wineland states that pregnant mothers who have been infected by the rapidly spreading Delta variant are at greater risk of stillbirths. This is because they may be carrying preeclampsia and babies with restricted growth, which is a leading cause for maternal and infant deaths worldwide.

She also witnessed firsthand the warnings of the CDC: Expecting mothers who have COVID are twice the likely to be admitted into the ICU, and at a 70% higher risk of dying.

Wineland states that COVID will save your life and reduce your chances of being hospitalized if you get it.

Scott Baisley and his son Sullivan, two months old, were not able to hear the message. They live outside Charleston.

Scott comforts the infant by holding him close. A bottle of water is placed next to a frame ultrasound photo and a wedding photo.

Scott's wife Clair, 33 years old, collapsed on August floor at their home. This was just days after she was diagnosed with COVID. She was immediately admitted to hospital with double pneumonia.

Doctors decided that Sullivan would be delivered by C-section a week later. Clair was placed on a ventilator with a 10% chance of survival. Doctors tried to save Clair in desperate circumstances less than a month after her diagnosis.

"But that was all. Her numbers continued to drop. I saw her blood oxygen levels continue to drop. Scott said, "I watched her heart rate rise."

Clair vanished suddenly. COVID had taken her life. She didn't get to meet Sullivan.

"Having a child without a mother is one the most difficult things I have ever experienced."

It is a painful experience Scott does not want to see anyone else go through.