Again, economic disparities are evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new study from the Sutter Health Center for Health Systems Research, Latinas are more than twice as likely to contract the virus as their white female peers during pregnancy.
The study, which involved testing 4,500 pregnant women who gave birth between October and December 2020 for antibodies, found that pregnant Latinas were 2.4 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than white patients.
Since vaccines were not yet available in the US during this period, antibodies “were attributable to women having the disease,” Dr. Alice Pressman, research director of the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity and lead author of the study, explained in a press call last week.
“The findings are exciting in the sense that it gives us additional data we can now share with our patients in helping them to make that really important decision to get fully vaccinated in pregnancy so we can protect them and their babies,” Dr. Jorge Siopak, the medical director of Obstetrics/Gynecology Women’s Health and Perinatal Services at La Clínica de La Raza, said on the call.
According to Siopak, who works with underserved communities at the Oakland, California-based clinic, many patients refuse or postpone vaccination until after pregnancy because they worry that getting vaccinated will have harmful effects on them and their babies.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control announced last week that vaccination against COVID-19 during pregnancy is not linked to birth complications, including premature delivery and low birth weight newborns.
However, a growing body of research shows that not getting vaccinated during pregnancy poses a much greater health risk to mother and baby than getting vaccinated, Siopak says, since pregnancy already puts a strain on a mother’s body.
As of this month, only 40% of pregnant women have received a vaccine before or during their pregnancy, according to the CDC. In other words, 3 out of 5 pregnant women in the U.S. are currently unvaccinated, and therefore unprotected, against the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which is causing a nationwide increase in cases.
To make matters worse, the research found that one of the most important factors in the infection of pregnant Latinas is the living and working conditions that put the Hispanic community at greater risk.
“When it came to the living arrangements, the Hispanic population was much more likely to self-report living in a household with more than five other members,” Pressman explained.
Pressman also noted that Latinas are more likely to come into contact with people who have COVID-19 in their roles as essential workers.
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