BREWSTER, N.Y. (PIX11) — New York City mother Cecilia Vega-Britez, 36, was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia in mid-September, six and a half months pregnant with her fifth son. She says she started to worry when she didn’t get a second dose of the anti-viral remdesivir.
Vega-Britez did a Facebook Live from her hospital bed in Westchester, demanding to know what her treatment regimen was, even as she had difficulty breathing. She said her treatment plan was to get Remdesivir every 24 hours. “I’ve been untreated for 26 hours,” she said through her oxygen mask.
Vega-Britez had chosen not to get the COVID vaccine in the early stages of pregnancy and the hospital was actually giving her multiple treatments for the virus, including an effective steroid to build up her lungs and those of her unborn baby. “Phone calls were not getting through,” she said. “They were not communicating with my husband.”
When she did the Facebook Live on September 15, after she’d been moved to the labor and delivery unit at a larger hospital, her perception was that the baby’s health was the doctors’ only concern. “They’re getting the baby ready and they’re not treating my pneumonia,” she said. “I’m making the video as evidence that I’m afraid for my life,” she continued, “that they’re going to come and say we have to take your baby and put you on a ventilator.”
As it turned out, the mother’s health improved and, as a result, an emergency C-section was not required. Vega-Britez returned home to her family this week after eight days in the hospital.
The crisis made Vega-Britez reflect on her decision not to get vaccinated: “Why would I give this vaccine to an unborn child that doesn’t have its organs fully developed yet?” Vega-Britez wondered. But she explains that she now regrets initially resisting vaccination. “I ended up getting so many other chemicals into my body, and into my baby.”
Fertility and infectious disease experts explained that many studies have shown the COVID vaccine doesn’t harm an unborn child and works well to prevent serious illness in the pregnant mother. “You are more susceptible to respiratory illness,” says Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn of Emory University said about pregnant women, whose immune systems are sometimes compromised. “You get the jab. You get the immunity. That saves you.”
Dr. Anate Brauer, a specialist with Shady Grove Fertility in Manhattan, pointed to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that 35,000 pregnant women had no change in their outcomes after getting the vaccine. “The vaccine itself does not cross the placenta,” Brauer said. “But your bodies make antibodies against the virus that do cross the placenta and, therefore, protect the fetus.”
The two doctors also expressed concern about well-known personalities on social media who make negative claims about the vaccine. Superstar Nicki Minaj recently tweeted “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent.”
On public figures with large followings: “It behooves them to back up their statements with data,” Brauer said. “The vaccine does not impact either short term or long term sperm parameters.”
Vega-Britez says that now, she has a much more positive view of the vaccine. Each of her four sons got sick with COVID, beginning with her oldest, a 16-year-old. He had not yet made an appointment to get vaccinated, and visited a friend in Queens. “He went to his friend’s house, and he said he would do it after that, and then it all started,” said Arnaldo Britez, Vega-Britez’ husband.
Britez, a New York City employee, was the only person in the household who was vaccinated, and the only one who didn’t get sick. His wife is now advising pregnant women to get the vaccine to ward off complications from COVID. “If you end up in the hospital, it’s not going to be pretty,” Vega-Britez said. “If you can, get the vaccine.”
Vega-Britez noted that communications between the doctors and herself improved dramatically after she did the Facebook Live. Even though she was initially upset with what she called bad communication, Vega-Britez knows the doctors brought her through the COVID crisis with her pregnancy intact. “Whatever happened in the hospital, they ended up saving my life,” she says.