Utah Department of Health wants pregnant people to know they can get coronavirus boosters, monoclonal antibody therapy – Community News
Covid-19

Utah Department of Health wants pregnant people to know they can get coronavirus boosters, monoclonal antibody therapy

Rebecca Pipkin wishes she had known that being pregnant meant she was eligible for a booster shot for the COVID-19 vaccine in Utah.

“I would much rather have had a booster than get COVID,” said the 33-year-old from Midvale.

Despite being cautious and getting the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year, Pipkin tested positive for the virus in mid-November, when she was 37 weeks pregnant.

Fortunately, Pipkin’s symptoms are much milder than her husband’s, who has been bedridden. Meanwhile, she has had some congestion and has lost her sense of smell.

But worries are swirling through her mind, she said. Does she have to take time off from work so close to her maternity leave to care for her toddler, who hasn’t contracted the virus? Can her midwives come to her home while she is still sick? Will she have to have a cesarean section if her baby is still in a fragile position when it comes time to give birth? Can her husband go to the hospital if he has not yet recovered?

“It’s like a weird feeling of guilt and shame. Did I do something wrong? Why did I get COVID?” said Pippin. Then she remembers that the virus doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t choose “good” or “bad” people to infect.

To keep her disease from getting worse, Pipkin drove to Orem on Nov. 11 to receive monoclonal antibody therapy — another treatment she didn’t know she could get in Utah since she got pregnant. She found out when a health care provider called about her positive COVID-19 test result.

The Utah Department of Health is trying to get the word out that pregnant women are included in the priority groups eligible for COVID-19 boosters and monoclonal antibodies, said Assistant Director Dr. Michelle Hoffmann.

(Rebecca Pipkin) Rebecca Pipkin, right, with her husband, Daniel Pipkin, and son, Lincoln Pipkin, in 2021. Rebecca Pipkins became ill with COVID-19 in November 2021 when she was 37 weeks pregnant.

While the department didn’t have specific data available for Utah, there was some hesitation about expecting mothers to receive the coronavirus vaccine nationally, she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “only 31% of pregnant people had been vaccinated against COVID-19 at the end of September. The highest rates were among pregnant Asian people (45.7%), and the lowest were among black pregnant people (15). .6%).

The CDC “highly recommends” that women receive the vaccine before or during pregnancy.

Mothers want to do what’s best for their babies, said Dr. Tori Metz, vice chair of research, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Health, telling her patients that getting vaccinated “is the best thing they can do for themselves.” do and their pregnancy.”

Utah’s COVID-19 Cases in Pregnant People

Laurel White, of Provo, was five weeks pregnant when she contracted COVID-19 last Thanksgiving. Like Pipkin, White lost her sense of taste and smell. A few days later, she started bleeding and White was concerned that she was miscarrying. White discovered that she had a subchorionic hemorrhage, something she had experienced in her previous pregnancies.

“I felt overwhelmed. I thought I was losing the baby,” the 33-year-old said. She wondered if having COVID was a factor, and she said she’s still unsure if it was. But her baby was fine and was born in August.

According to data requested by The Salt Lake Tribune from the Utah Department of Health, there were 2,952 cases of COVID-19 among female Utahns ages 15 to 49 who were pregnant between March 2020 and the end of September this year.

“This number is likely a major underestimate,” the department said, however, as pregnancy status was not a required field in case studies until April 5 of this year, “and 73.8% of female cases in this age range have no information” about whether they are pregnant or not. were pregnant.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

From April 2020 to September 2021, 436 pregnant people with COVID-19 cases were hospitalized. This does not include patients who were admitted for labor and delivery, were asymptomatic and were tested only because of hospital screening policies, the department said.

As of March 2020, between one and four pregnant people have died in Utah who had COVID-19.

In Utah, pregnant white Utahns have seen the highest number of cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19, followed by pregnant women who identify as Hispanic and Latino. Looking at the age data, 15- to 29-year-olds have had the most cases and hospitalizations.

How Pregnant Women Can Get Monoclonal Antibodies?

Expectant mothers have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. According to the CDC, pregnant people who show symptoms of the virus are twice as likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit and 70% more likely to die.

The Utah Department of Health still encourages pregnant people to get vaccinated as the “first and best option” to ward off COVID-19, Hofmann said. But monoclonal antibody therapy is another step that could help prevent people from adding to Utah’s already overburdened hospital system.

To receive monoclonal antibodies, pregnant people must show symptoms of COVID-19 and not require oxygen or be hospitalized, Hofmann said. They also need to get the antibodies within 10 days — but preferably within seven days, when it’s most effective — to test positive for the coronavirus, she said.

Utahns don’t need a doctor’s referral to receive monoclonal antibodies, according to Hofmann. Instead, you can complete a survey on the Utah Department of Health website (bit.ly/3kKRhlF) to see if you qualify. And it’s usually a one-time treatment, she said.

“Monoclonal antibodies are given to people through an intravenous (IV) drip,” the department said, usually in an outpatient setting. It takes about an hour to administer, plus another hour for a health professional to check for possible side effects.

Pipkin said the therapy felt the same as when she donated blood and plasma. To pass the time, she picked up headphones and listened to podcasts, and was able to drive home herself. The treatment was free, and she said she had to prove she had COVID-19, as well as some basic information about her date of birth and any underlying conditions.

More information about monoclonal antibody therapy can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov/noveltherapeutics/.

Find where to get the COVID-19 vaccine at coronavirus.utah.gov.

Read more about COVID-19 and pregnancy at mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/covid-19-vaccines/.

According to Hofmann, monoclonal antibodies have been offered through emergency authorization in Utah for more than a year.

Not as much is known about monoclonal antibodies to COVID-19 during pregnancy as it is with the vaccines, Metz said, simply because vaccines have been used more during the pandemic. But similar drugs and treatments are already being used during pregnancy, so doctors feel comfortable using them for COVID-19, she said.

Metz also said she thinks monoclonal antibody therapy isn’t as well known to the general public as vaccines, in part because it’s only used for targeted groups. And pregnant people are probably less hesitant about getting monoclonal antibody therapy than the vaccine, she said, because once they have COVID-19, they want to lower their chance of a bad thing.

It is now ‘difficult’ to be pregnant

Like Pipkin and White, Jenna Kenison, 31, of Lehi, had a mild case of COVID-19 after contracting the virus last November while in her second trimester. Sometimes, she said, it was difficult to tell which symptoms were from the virus and which were from pregnancy.

“It’s like, okay, I’m exhausted … but I’m exhausted all the time,” Kenison laughed.

During her pregnancy, Kenison said, she felt like there were a lot of unknowns and changing information about how COVID-19 was affecting the pregnancy. Finally, she decided to wait until after giving birth to get vaccinated, when she felt confident and ready.

“If you feel like something is wrong or if you have a question, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctors or other people who have been through it,” she said.

White, meanwhile, chose to have the Johnson & Johnson recording done in April before having her daughter. “I just felt like it did something safe for me, for my family, for the people around me,” she said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dani Al-Mansouri, 21, of Herriman, who is 31 weeks pregnant with her first child, waits the necessary 15 minutes after receiving her second dose of Pfizer vaccine at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy on Friday, April 30, 2021.

“This is a very difficult time to be pregnant,” Metz said. Anecdotally, the doctor said she has seen uncertainty in some pregnant women in Utah about receiving the vaccine, in part because they get a lot of opinions from different sources, along with misinformation.

But once Metz sits down and explains the science and research that has been done showing the vaccines are safe during pregnancy, “many of them are really willing to go ahead and get vaccinated,” Metz said.

Metz also recommends pregnant women get the COVID-19 booster. Some of her patients who received their first doses were excited about the chance for additional protection against the virus, she said.

By getting the vaccine and monoclonal antibodies, Pipkin said “it’s a comforting thought” to her that she could potentially help her baby stay safe and healthy.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of women in Utah. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help her continue writing these kinds of stories; Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today by clicking here.