The harrowing reality of Mississippi’s COVID-19 crisis was on full display this week as health officials announced the deaths of eight pregnant women, a surge in pediatric deaths, and the first death of an infant since the pandemic began.
At a Wednesday press conference, health officials said the baby was aged under 1.
“It’s been a rough month and a half,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told reporters, noting that the Delta variant has “caused a lot of unnecessary deaths.”
Among the most recent deaths were at least eight pregnant women who left behind their babies.
“Sadly, we’ve seen a pretty significant number of pregnant women not survive COVID in recent weeks,” Dobbs said, per the Sun Herald. “Currently we are investigating eight reports of pregnant women who have died within the past several weeks, all of whom are unvaccinated.”
He pleaded with expectant mothers to get vaccinated; the state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
“Please get vaccinated. You’ve got to protect yourself, you’ve got to protect your baby. You’ve got to protect your family. The vaccine is phenomenally safe,” he said. “Lies and fear-mongering out there have caused unnecessary fear. We know that COVID kills moms, and we know that it’s very dangerous.”
Just last week, Dobbs and Mississippi State Medical Association President Mark Horne spoke about the frantic rush by doctors at one hospital to rescue babies as their mothers inch closer to death in the ICU.
“And we’re talking C-sections in the ICU so you can get the baby out before the mom dies,” Dobbs said on Sept. 3, according to AL.com.
“The seasoned OBGYNs and critical-care specialists said this never happens. Never,” Horne said.
Fetal deaths—which refer to deaths in the womb after 20 weeks of gestation—have also doubled among unvaccinated pregnant women with COVID, with 72 such cases reported.
“It’s been a real tragedy,” Dobbs said, stressing that while COVID is “especially problematic and dangerous” for pregnant women, it “can be deadly for the baby in the womb.”
The state has seen more pediatric deaths in the last six weeks than the total number of kids’ deaths throughout the first 17 months of the pandemic, Dobbs said.
With children under the age of 12 currently unable to get vaccinated, those who are most defenseless against the virus make up a huge chunk of the state’s current cases. Those between the ages of 5 and 17 account for about 22 percent of all infections, according to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health.
“These last 2 months have been brutal for healthcare workers and families with children,” Dr. Anita Henderson, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, tweeted after the press conference, along with the hashtag “#PutKidsFirst.”