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"A real tragedy": In COVID-19 pandemic, rate of stillbirths doubles in Mississippi

CDC urges COVID vaccine during pregnancy
CDC strongly recommends COVID vaccine during pregnancy, new research shows no risk of miscarriage 02:49

Coronavirus is taking a deadly toll on pregnant people and fetuses in Mississippi. Officials announced on Wednesday that the rate of stillbirths in the state has doubled since the pandemic began last year. 

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a livestreamed press conference on Wednesday that while "COVID is especially dangerous and problematic for pregnant women," it can also be "deadly for the baby in the womb." 

"With COVID, we've seen a doubling of the rate of fetal demise, or the death of the baby in the womb after 20 weeks," Dobbs said. "It's been a real tragedy."

Dobbs said there have been 72 fetal deaths in the state caused by COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, not including miscarriages that may have occurred before the 20-week gestation mark, which is "twice the background rate of what would be expected." 

Over the past year, there have also been seven pediatric deaths in the state due to COVID-19, including most recently a baby who was less than a year old.

"That's quite a number of tragedies that sadly would be preventable right now," Dobbs said. 

Officials also said there are "increasing deaths among pregnant women." Since March 2020, more than 1,500 pregnant people in the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19, as have more than 76,900 children under the age of 17. 

"We're still in the thick of the Delta surge. Sadly we've seen a pretty significant number of pregnant women not survive COVID in recent weeks," Dobbs said. "Currently we are investigating eight reports of pregnant women who have died within the past several weeks, all of whom are unvaccinated."

Some of the women who died were able to deliver their babies via C-section, officials said. 

The majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state, Dobbs said, are among those who are unvaccinated. Just 40% of Mississippi's total population has been fully vaccinated, according to state data — one of the lowest rates in the country.

Nearly 12,000 Mississippi students test positive for COVID, nearly 29,000 students in quarantine 02:56

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency said research shows that unvaccinated pregnant people are at an "increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19," and that those who are vaccinated do not face an increased risk of miscarriage.  

CDC data shows that less than a quarter of all pregnant people in the U.S. are at least partially vaccinated as of early September.

"CDC encourages all pregnant people or people who are thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on August 11. "The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people."

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