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Pregnant San Diego woman dies from COVID-19

The woman died earlier this week after being hospitalized, as did her unborn child.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An unvaccinated woman is the first pregnant San Diego woman to die from COVID-19, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced Friday.

The woman died earlier this week after being hospitalized, as did her unborn child. Her age and other details about her death and pregnancy are not being reported to protect her and her family’s privacy.

On Oct. 6, the County Health and Human Services Agency issued a health alert to the local medical community alerting them of an increase in cases and hospitalizations of unvaccinated pregnant women, and encouraging them to urge their patients to get vaccinated.

Alex Kavalaris gave birth two months ago and says she decided to get the shot while pregnant.

“I believe there is more health benefits in getting the vaccination over getting COVID so I chose to do that. My husband was also on board with getting it as well,” Kavalaris said.

From June 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, there have been 253 laboratory-confirmed cases among pregnant people, including 203 among those not fully vaccinated compared to 50 who were fully vaccinated. Of the 253, a total of 31 required hospitalization; 30 of those hospitalized were not fully vaccinated.

Not fully vaccinated is defined as being unvaccinated or having received a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Fully vaccinated is defined as being 14-days after the 2nd dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Pregnant women in general, are more susceptible to infection. They’re considered immunocompromised. The few patients that we have currently at Sharp Mary Birch with COVID-19 are not vaccinated and that’s heartbreaking. They don’t need to be here,” said Dr. Joann Adamczak, who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine. 

In late September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory strongly recommending that people get vaccinated against COVID-19 either before, during or after pregnancy —including those who are breast-feeding — because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known and potential risks.

According to the CDC, pregnant people who contract and develop symptoms from COVID-19 “have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care and a 70% increased risk of death.”

Black and Hispanic women have the lowest rates of vaccination and OBGYN Dr. Kelly Elmore says the unvaccinated still need to take precautions.

“I’m not going to force you to do anything that you’re uncomfortable with. That being said, I tell them mask up, wash your hands, don’t go to parties with lots of people and expose yourself and your unborn child to these risks,” Elmore said.

There are over 400 locations where San Diegans can get vaccinated against COVID-19. They include doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies (Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, etc.), community clinics and County public health centers.

Nearly 80% of eligible San Diegans are now fully vaccinated. There is plenty of COVID-19 vaccine available in the region for San Diegans who are eligible and due for a booster shot and for San Diegans who have not yet been vaccinated. You can also find a complete list of locations at coronavirus-sd.com.

WATCH RELATED: When can kids get COVID vaccines? Pfizer seeks FDA approval (October 2021)