BREWSTER, NY — When 36-year-old Cecilia Vega-Britez was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia last week, six and a half months pregnant with her fifth son, she started to worry when she didn’t get her second dose of the anti-viral Remdesivir.
So Vega-Britez did a FaceTime 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. “I am very scared for my life.”
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. But her ordeal illustrates the importance of communication between doctors, patients, and their loved ones.
“Phone calls were not getting through,” the pregnant mom said. “They were not communicating with my husband.”
The crisis also caused Vega-Britez to reflect on her decision not to get vaccinated, a decision she now regrets.
“I ended up getting so many other chemicals into my body, and into my baby,” Vega-Britez told PIX11 when we visited her Brewster home.
Fertility and infectious disease experts explained to PIX11 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,” 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 which studied 35,000 pregnant women who had no change in their outcomes after getting the vaccine.
“The vaccine itself does not cross the placenta,” Dr. Brauer told PIX11. “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.”
Dr. Brauer said this about public figures who have large followings: “It behooves them to back up their statements with data,” Dr. Brauer said. “The vaccine does not impact, either short term or long term, sperm parameters.”
Vega-Britez said she has a much more positive view of the vaccine now.
When she did the FaceTime video on Sept. 15, after she’d been moved to the labor and delivery unit at a larger hospital, her perception was 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 am very scared for my life.”
“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. She explained to PIX11 why she initially resisted the vaccine.
“In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Why would I give this vaccine to an unborn child that doesn’t have its organs fully developed yet?'” Vega-Britez wondered.
The mother’s four sons got sick with COVID, beginning with her oldest, a 16 year old. He had not made his appointment to get a vaccine shot 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-19.
“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 FaceTime Live.
And 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 said.