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On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with board certified physician Dr. Stacy De-Lin about the spread of misinformation online about COVID, particularly COVID and pregnancy.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin MD (she/her), is a board certified physician whose specialty and area of practice is gynecology and family planning. Dr. De-Lin is an Associate Medical Director at Planned Parenthood and works to provide access to full-spectrum reproductive healthcare no matter what. In addition to her busy practice, Dr. De-Lin works to combat online misinformation through her Instagram account @stacydelin_md. 

We talk about the rise of misinformation online about COVID regarding pregnancy. We also talk about how evidence based research about COVID can assist pregnant people and their families to make informed decisions about their health. 

Content Warning: We mention COVID, COVID-related deaths, abortion, and miscarriage.

Resources

Learn more about Dr. Stacy De-Lin and follow her Instagram here.

 Learn more about Planned Parenthood here

Learn more about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here

Learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics here.

Learn more about EBB COVID resource page here.

Learn more about the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) here.

Transcript

iRebecca Dekker: Hi, everyone, on today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with board certified physician Dr. Stacy De-Lin about the spread of misinformation online about COVID and what we can do about it.

Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice, see ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.

Hi, everyone. And welcome to today’s episode of the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My new name is Rebecca Dekker, pronouns she/her, and I will be your host for today’s episode. Today we are so excited to welcome Dr. Stacy De-Lin to talk about the spread of misinformation online about COVID, and particularly COVID and pregnancy.

Before we interview Dr. De-Lin, I wanted to let you know that if there are any detailed content or trigger warnings, we’ll post them in the description or show notes that go along with this episode. And now, I’d like to introduce our honored guest. 

Dr. Stacy De-Lin MD, pronouns she/her, is a board certified physician whose specialty and area of practice is gynecology and family planning. Dr. De-Lin is an Associate Medical Director at Planned Parenthood and works to provide access to full-spectrum reproductive healthcare no matter what. In addition to her busy practice, Dr. De-Lin works to combat online misinformation through her Instagram account @stacydelin_md. We are so thrilled to have Dr. De-Lin join us today. Welcome, Dr. De-Lin, to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: I’m so excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Rebecca Dekker: So, I know you are very busy as a practicing physician, can you take us back to the beginning though and tell us how you started your career in gynecology?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. So when I was in medical school, I always was interested in reproductive health, reproductive medicine, I had used Planned Parenthood when I was a teenager growing up in rural Florida and it always interested me, and I just felt that there was a real need for physicians, as I went through my career, who were able to provide full-spectrum reproductive healthcare, including birth control, contraception, abortion, prenatal care, the whole range of services.

And I felt that this line of career has become sadly really politicized. And there are even a lot of training programs that train doctors in the country who refuse to provide training for abortion care or even training for contraception. So, I actually did my internship in OB-GYN at a Catholic hospital, which wouldn’t let us provide even contraception to patients. We had to, for example, if we wanted to give a patient birth control pills, we would have to say it was for dysmenorrhea, like period pain, or metrorrhagia, heavy periods.

And to see something that my patients needed be so politicized and patients not have access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare that they deserve in their lives made me just feel really dedicated towards being able to provide care for patients at every stage in their lives. So, while I did spend, excuse me, a lot of years delivering babies, I merged, I moved into gynecology where I could do prenatal care, but I also do contraception, abortion, IUD insertion, all the range of gynecology services.

I really love my job. I’ve worked for Planned Parenthood for almost 10 years now. Our motto is to provide care no matter what. And we are able to provide care to anyone who comes in our door. And that includes a range of things like gender affirming, a transgender care, a hormone therapy, and just a number of services. And it doesn’t sort of matter what your insurance is, or if you have no ability to pay. And I feel really blessed to have a job where every day patients mention to me that the services that we provided really help them plan their lives or save their lives. So, I feel really dedicated to the work that I do.

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And you’re bringing back memories of when I worked temporarily at a Catholic hospital where I remember we had to let people know that they couldn’t get their tubes tied after a C- section if they were planning on that. I remember being surprised by that, like it was something that just seemed like such a basic surgery that they were not allowed to provide to women.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. I can’t… I encountered the same thing in the Catholic hospital that I did my internship in. And I just remember, I was a sort of new intern and was watching my attending consent for the surgery. And this patient, she had her third child and she really wanted this tubal ligation. And just to explain what that means is, when you have a C-section, you’re in the middle of this major surgery, and you can very, very quickly tie someone’s tubes, it takes literally minutes and makes no difference.

But what we had to counsel that patient was that if she wanted a tubal ligation, she had to have her incision closed, to go home, recover from surgery, and then come back for another surgery with its own risks of anesthesia, infection. And to me, it was just so not centered on healthcare, that it was really, really devastating. And I think that the doctors and the patients’ perspectives get really left out of the decision making when it feels like politicians are making these sort of laws. So, I was equally as surprised as you were to encounter that in my medical training.

Rebecca Dekker: So, one of the reasons we reached out to you to come on the podcast is on social media, in Instagram, we were noticing your work as a COVID science communicator. Can you tell us like what that means in your informal role doing that work?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Sure. So, one thing that I’ve done for years in my practice, I often have patients who come in, particularly things around birth control or birth is that patients read myths online. They hear something, they’ve heard something that’s been passed around, and it might be that the birth control pill causes weight gain or there’s a certain thing that’s safer in… Using a certain kind of herb for pregnancy is safer. So, a lot of these things are not grounded in science. So, I like to share evidence with my patients and really talk to them about how to learn how to debunk these myths that you see floating around online.

So, when COVID came on the scene, I was working in our busy New York City clinic. And one of my jobs as the Associate Medical Director was to really, really take in all of the COVID information that was being released by the World Health Organization, the CDC, because my job was to keep our patients and our staff while still continuing to provide essential healthcare.

So, I was really just all day in this data, learning about COVID as the rest of the world was. And in terms of things like mask safety, and as vaccines came onto the scene, reading about vaccine safety, and being really excited about the incredible safety and efficacy data of vaccines. But then I just started to notice within my friends’ circle and just within the media, there seemed to be this uptick with a lot of misinformation.

And I would have people sending me messages on Instagram with questions like, “Is this vaccine safe? Do masks really work?” And to me, the evidence was clear. It was overwhelming and it was easy. I’m somebody who does a lot of clinical research in my job and participates in a number of trials and nearly every medication that you take, it has nowhere near the overwhelming amount of safety data and monitoring that the COVID vaccine for example did.

So, it was really, really shocking and surprising to me that there was so much misinformation and that people had so many questions. So, I just thought, I used my Instagram, which before COVID had mostly been used for pictures of travel that I was no longer taking, to just start to answer some questions. And I found that people were just really, really desperately hungry for information. People were so confused.

And one thing that I’ve learned, which has been just shocking to me, that I had no idea about before I embarked on this, is that there’s a really, really profit-driven industry among spreading misinformation about COVID itself, the vaccine itself, and that social media companies themselves profit off of it. And very often these people who spread misinformation profit off of it as well. It often comes with, “Don’t take the vaccine, but boost your immune system with this kind of essential oil.” Or it can go, or there are telemedicine companies that are profiting off of selling ivermectin.

So, “Take this unsafe course deworming medication, the vaccine isn’t safe, this isn’t.” So, I was shocked by the amount of misinformation that is out there. So, I do my best to daily stay up on the research, report what I can. And I also use my Instagram to bring in experts like epidemiologists, pediatricians, who know more than I do on things like pediatric critical care in the ICU, immunologists who have been involved in the vaccine trials to share the information to everyone, to as much as possible share sources that we know are reliable, that are evidence-based, talk to physicians who are board certified, and teach people to look to major medical organizations who review all the collective data.

I think the one thing that I’ve had to combat a lot this year is people say that they’ve been encouraged to do their own research. And one of the things that I say is that I, as a physician, many years in practice, with a lot of experience in clinical research can in no way do my own research, even though I have a background in this, there’s no way that I can look at all the evidence. So, we rely on these bodies of major medical organizations.

So, one is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They do a great job of using hundreds of scientists to create and compile all the data on, for example, the safety of the vaccine in pregnancy. So, rather than me looking at one study and trying to extrapolate what that means, these organizations look at hundreds or thousands of studies to make these decisions on how to practice medicine. So, I also use ACOG to look at how to, in what way I’m supposed to follow a Pap smear in the same way that I also look to them to know that it’s safe to recommend COVID vaccination for my patients.

So, it’s hard. It’s trying to teach everyone to look at evidence the way that scientists do, but not making people feel like they have to look at one piece of research and then that will give them the answer that there are these organizations that are out there providing what the comprehensive evidence is on things like COVID infection and vaccination.

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. I think, one of the things I’ve seen with… And I do appreciate people trying to educate themselves, but the problem is misinformation can spread like wildfire. One person’s poor interpretation of a study can then reach millions of people. And I’m thinking, and in particular, there’s a study about the safety of vaccines in pregnancy that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. And I have had so many people email and private message saying, “Do you see that there was a miscarriage rate of 80% in this study?” And that is absolutely false.

If you read the fine print, the reason they couldn’t report a miscarriage rate is because so many of the women and birthing people were still pregnant in the study. So, you can’t calculate a percentage without a denominator. So, I keep trying to tell them like, “You are not counting, all these other people are still pregnant. They haven’t had a miscarriage. And until their pregnancies are completed, we can’t calculate the miscarriage rate.”

But they’ll take a screenshot of the table with the number of miscarriages and say it was an 80%, but nowhere in the paper does it say it was 80%. One person try to do the math on their own and fail, because they don’t know how to calculate a percentage. I mean, that was one piece that really shocked me how fast that spread. Have you seen that going around online?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. And it feels really overwhelming. And like I said, the way in which I was shocked by how quickly stuff like that spreads. My own personal education and learning more about how that’s a coordinated effort with financial backing feels really, really frustrating and sad. You were able to have that critical reasoning piece, where you were able to look at a denominator and see what it meant and pour into the data.

And I think that’s what doctors and epidemiologists and researchers can do, and people shouldn’t be expected to do that all on their own. I don’t spend a lot of time teaching people how to pick apart data, because frankly, for a lot of people, that takes years to learn how to do. So, I think that what I mostly try to recommend people to do is like, “What’s the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists saying about this?” These are thousands of doctors that also have to review this evidence.

Are we suddenly worried about miscarriage rates of 80% happening, for example? And I think that most people have a trusted physician in their life. And I often tell them to talk to that doctor, because that doctor is aware as well. So, if I knew of anything that caused an 80% miscarriage rate in my patients, I would beat every doctor that would be screaming it from the rooftop. And I feel like it would be on the front page of the New York Times, as doctors collectively panicked about it.

So, it’s easy for me to understand that as a physician, that we monitor that very closely and we’ve all taken an oath to do no harm to our patients. We all go into this extremely demanding job, because we really, really care about our patients and our patients’ health. It’s hard to believe that doctors would ignore that evidence or cover up that evidence. We really, really want to do what’s best for our patients. So, I think that’s the piece I also really recommend that people talk to the doctors that they trust in their lives.

As a person who cares for pregnant patients, when I read two things, number one, the data on what happens to patients who are pregnant and become infected with COVID. Number two, the efficacy and safety of the COVID vaccine, I strongly recommend COVID vaccination for my pregnant patients.

On a personal note, my sister-in-law, my closest friends who have been pregnant, have all been vaccinated with my strong endorsement. I first, when I was in my internship and residency, that’s when the H1N1 virus was around and that was milder on pregnant women. But I did see pregnant women affected by it. And otherwise healthy pregnant women would end up needing breathing support or ventilators.

So, for my colleagues who still work on labor and delivery, hearing their firsthand accounts of how sick pregnant patients became once they had COVID, which essentially your immune system, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, it’s almost an immunocompromised state as your body is busy supporting this pregnancy. Pregnant women really, truly don’t have the immune system that’s required to fight off COVID in a way some other people may be able to.

So these patients ending up on ventilators, their babies being delivered early, their babies dying in some cases, it was just devastating to read and to hear about such poor maternal and neonatal outcomes, just really, really devastating. And I’m sure by now people have begun to read the stories in the news of just mom and baby dying in just really, really horrifying ways.

And then we get this COVID vaccine, which has excellent… What was really interesting is that the initial studies on the vaccine didn’t include pregnant women. Some colleagues of mine who were even pregnant at the time volunteered to be a part of these trials as early as possible and to provide the data. And the CDC started to collect data very early on about patients who were pregnant and got the vaccine anyway. And then the safety data was overwhelming.

Then, with time, formal studies were carried out, which once again demonstrated no increase rates of miscarriages, no change in neonatal outcomes, and no safety issues at all for mom or baby, for a parent or baby. So, it was just really, really overwhelming and such a huge relief. So, that’s why it’s also been really sad to see patients who are still hesitate when organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have strongly recommended vaccination for all pregnant patients.

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. From what I understand, the vaccination rates in pregnant people are still fairly low-

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Small.

Rebecca Dekker: … and have not caught up to the rest of the population. So, there’s obviously a lot of hesitancy and I don’t think it’s necessarily coming from doctors, it’s probably coming from family and friends. And yeah, like you said, it’s really interesting, because so far the research is extremely reassuring and that it’s protective, the vaccine triggers you to make your own antibodies and gives you this extra layer of protection. Whereas people are so afraid to put something in their body, but then they catch COVID and they’re rushing to the ER to get all kinds of infusions of experimental medications and antibodies too.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Absolutely. Yeah. I think especially in the setting of the Delta variant being present, that it’s not a choice to get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated. Eventually the choice will be to be vaccinated or to get COVID infection. It’s such a highly contagious virus, unless you cement yourself in the house and never leave and no one ever comes over, you’re at high risk, everyone in the country is at high risk of being exposed at some point.

So, I really do, I think often it’s a false dichotomy to say, “I get vaccinated or I don’t,” it really needs to be thought of as getting vaccinated or becoming infected with COVID as the virus is so, so wide.

Rebecca Dekker: It’s interesting what you said, I hadn’t really thought, about the misinformation actually being a coordinated effort with where people are making big money off of this. I guess I didn’t really realize that, or maybe I’ve heard it once, but it hadn’t really struck home until you said that, that it’s not just like people’s moms and aunts and cousins just casually spreading, like there’s an effort to make the misinformation appealing to share so that more people share it and spread it.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah.

Rebecca Dekker: Can you talk a little bit more about how do we know that’s going on? Or what’s behind this kind of effort?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. So I think that, I didn’t realize, I also thought it was just like, Hmm, people are confused and maybe sharing some misinformation, your aunt share something on Facebook, that sort of thing. But what I noticed is that when I started answering question on Instagram, all of a sudden misinformation would come in waves. There would be one specific piece of misinformation that I would get hundreds of questions about over the course of a week.

And I was like, “This is so odd. Where is this coming from that everyone’s getting the same idea at the same time?” And I started following an organization called the Center for Countering Hate, which does research into online misinformation of all kinds. They identified about a dozen individuals who share the same sorts of COVID misinformation and make literally millions of dollars a year doing it.

And furthermore, sadly, I use social media to spread information, but social media companies like Facebook and Instagram actually profit heavily off misinformation by both, accounts with many followers that then they can use ads and they can sell ads through these followers’ accounts, and they also serve as marketplaces. So, every single time someone is like, “Don’t take the COVID vaccine, but try my essential oil to boost your immune system,” or, “Try this, try vitamin D, try something else to boost your immune system. Here’s where you can buy it through my marketplace.” The person selling the misinformation and the social media company that acts as a marketplace also profits.

I was like blown away by this information, but it made so much sense given how I would see, I just mentioned, vitamin D, everyone was asking me at one point, “I don’t need to get the COVID vaccine as long as my vitamin D levels are high, right?” And I was like, “I read these studies. There was nothing overwhelming in any way that showed that vitamin D had any benefit.” Same with ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine was a thing for a reason, the same thing.

Bizarrely, at the same time, I often get recruiters who reach out to me for jobs as a physician. And the two telemedicine companies reached out to me that said, “Doctor, are you interested in billing for selling hydroxychloroquine?” They were reaching out broadly to doctors to try and get them to sell hydroxychloroquine. They would say, “You can bill per visit.” And a number of my colleagues and I got these, we started raising the red flag about this, raising alarms, but we were like, “Wow, people are really aggressively trying to profit off of the sale of misinformation.”

And here’s the COVID vaccine, it’s free. You can get it at any CVS, any Walgreens. And the data is so overwhelming. And I can’t stress this as enough, it is the most scrutinized public health measure in our history. I mean, nothing has been scrutinized more. And the fact that we’ve given billions and billions of vaccines across the world, and truly seen no major adverse outcomes and incredible efficacy, I can promise you the Tylenol that you take was not scrutinized as much, or the aspirin. So, it’s shocking to me that misinformation continues to abound.

There are some hardcore anti-vaxxers out there that I feel like I’ll never reach, and that’s fine. But I think there’s still a swath of people who genuinely understand that COVID is real. They’re concerned about their health, if they’re a pregnant person, they’re concerned about their baby’s health, if they’re a parent, they’re concerned about their child’s health, and they’re battling this continuous onslaught of misinformation. So, I do my best to just try and reach those people and say, “Hey, I know you’re getting a lot of just fresh in your inbox and that a lot of it seems scary, but I’m just going to continue to share the evidence about the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine.”

Rebecca Dekker: I think you’re right. There’s definitely some people who being an anti-vaccine identity, which is very difficult to undo. Then there’s people who are just hesitant and worried, and they want someone to listen to their concerns, and they want to be taken seriously.

I’ll give you a funny example of an email we got. We sent out a COVID newsletter on October 29 with a new handout we’d created with our research team at Evidence Based Birth®, spent months analyzing the research, putting this together. And I got an email from someone says, “Wow, what a complete load of expletive. I used to hold your information up to an extremely high standard, now I see that you are in fact biased. I will no longer be recommending any of your information to any of my childbirth education or doula clients. And I will unsubscribe from ever hearing from you again, you are woefully misleading and you will be held accountable for this deceit. Repent now.”

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: That’s fantastic.

Rebecca Dekker: I was like, “Okay, repent for what? For sharing information?” It was really interesting, because this was a doula who apparently used to follow Evidence Based Birth® and doesn’t anymore. And it’s just very, very sad to me that she’s telling me that I’m like… Basically saying, “You’re sinning by talking about the vaccine.” Like by even talking about it,

Because nowhere in the handout do we say, “Take the vaccine.” The handout just basically summarizes all the research on the vaccine. And I thought it was really interesting that she was telling me to repent now. I went and told Dan, my husband, I was like, “I guess I need to repent.” This is really interesting, the projection that was put on me for that.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. And like I said, I think that we, in my personal experience, I don’t waste a lot of energy arguing with people who are really die hard. And I try my best to reach people who have genuine concerns that come from a place of caring about their own health and caring about their family. And I think that some of that, you just have… It’s hard, but I think that the name of your podcast is Evidence Based Birth®, that you follow, the evidence applies to the COVID vaccine as well.

So, when it comes to birthing or to any piece of healthcare, I think that a lot of the myths that exist out there, like myths about miscarriages or myths about fertility or these sorts of things, there is a certain period that we’re in, where maybe people don’t have enough information, but as time is passing, it’s been more than a year, I think, since the… Yeah, it’s been about a year and a half since the initial trials, about a year since the COVID vaccine became widely available.

I think that people who maybe read a myth online that the COVID vaccine causes miscarriages has now seen their friends have a healthy pregnancy or had a healthy pregnancy themselves, or has seen a friend vaccinated in pregnancy, and that person gone on to deliver a healthy baby. And maybe also saw an unvaccinated friend who is pregnant, who got very, very sick and ended up in the ICU. So, I think that we’re in this period now where there’s not only the evidence that we talk about, like the research and the data, but there’s evidence before people’s very eyes, that this vaccine is safe and effective. So, I think that we’re in that painful transition process.

One thing that’s really helped me when I’ve felt a little bit of despair is there was a New York Times article written by a historian who studied vaccination through the ages. He talked about the initial smallpox vaccine, when that was rolled out. So, if people aren’t aware, smallpox was this horribly disfiguring disease that caused welts and lesions all over the body and killed many of the people that it infected.

And in one of the first vaccine campaigns, they identified that cowpox, that cows carried, could be given to people and it wouldn’t cause smallpox, but it would offer them protection, this terrible smallpox disease. And at the time it was rolled out, there was the same sort of misinformation campaign and it shared some, there were some local pastors and preachers in the neighborhood who put out some propaganda that said, “It could turn you into a cow if you were to take this vaccine. And don’t take it, take the thing that they were selling,” they had some tinctures and some ointments that they would sell to fight smallpox.

But eventually people saw the overwhelming success of the smallpox vaccine and smallpox is now eradicated in the world because of the vaccine. So, I think that we’re sort of in that period right now, where shortly there’s going to be enough evidence in front of people’s faces that a lot of those myths, it’ll just be very clear that they don’t hold up.

But in the meantime, people are dying. We just cleared 750,000 deaths in the United States from this disease and people are continuing to die. In some states, the Delta variant is tapering off, because it infected so many people. And now, as we enter the winter, in some states, it’s on the rise. So, I’m just continuing to share as much information as possible as I can in this period in order to get people educated and also really appreciate that you’re using your podcast to continue to do that in this time too.

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, you’re right though, you have to look at it in the bigger context of immunizations and anti-vaccine sentiment, and even just the history of how they were developed. I remember even before the pandemic, I read a book that was published in 2014 by a Eula Biss called On Immunity: An Inoculation. And it’s a really fascinating book about actually the history of parents and vaccinating their children and how the first vaccine and vaccine campaigns were led by moms who would do these homemade vaccine things, using a sterile knife and trying to expose their children, like you said, with smallpox. And some of that came out of the African continent as well.

So, I thought it’s really interesting that the whole concept of immunizing people with vaccinations came out of this parental instinct to protect your child. And then it’s turned and been twisted into people thinking that they’re trying to harm children, but it was actually the whole concept and practice was developed by parents who were trying to save their children from, like you said, smallpox and other diseases that killed children.

So, really interesting to see how things twist and turn over time. And as a nurse, who’s given many shots to people over my career, one of the things I realized is that I think a lot of the hesitancy comes from our very basic fear of needles and a lot of the tendencies to believe the misinformation is because we have a confirmation bias, we want to hear what makes us feel good. And for those of us who are afraid of needles and afraid of shots, it feels good to hear something that says, “You don’t need to get that shot.”

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Don’t need to do that, yeah. And I think the other thing too is the pharmaceutical companies that have rolled this out, pharmaceutical companies have done some shady stuff over time, right?

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, they don’t have the best reputations.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: They don’t, yeah. They’re very profit-driven. They clearly make a decision for profit. I mean, we can see it right now in the fact that we don’t have the vaccine out across the world. But I think that sometimes people mix those things together. I’m saying you don’t necessarily need to trust pharmaceutical companies, but do, for example, listen to doctors and epidemiologists, but it’s hard for people to piece that apart.

It’s really interesting too, what you said about parents and parenting and how mothers saw those diseases in front of their eyes and it really shifted how they wanted their kids immunized. And I think that one interesting question I’m getting from parents now is, “I’m not anti-vax. I got my COVID vaccine.” But now they’re saying that, “The vaccine is available for kids, and I’m a bit worried, this seems like a new technology, is this a good idea?”

One myth I do address very often is that mRNA vaccines are a new technology. And really they’re not, to the general public, they may have heard about them, but they’ve been in development for over 15 years, have been used for other illnesses like Ebola and tested. And again, 6 billion vaccines around the world administered, that is not anything that’s new or something that we don’t have data on. And the other thing I sometimes hear from parents is that, “COVID doesn’t really affect kids. So, why would I give my kid a vaccine for something that they don’t necessarily need?”

First of all, that’s just a myth, since the COVID outbreak began in the US, there have been about 800 kids who have died and there have been over 50,000 hospitalized. And many of them who left the hospital have had some significant long-term health effects. And I try to put people in a mind frame of like, think about, it’s some time in 2019 and you hear about a virus that’s coming that’s going to kill 800 US kids and put 50,000 in the hospital, everyone would panic.

But I think sometimes it feels like it pales in comparison to the death that we’ve seen in adults. But I think that in addition to protecting everyone else, including your grandparents who come over, other people in the community, that’s one reason alone to get kids vaccinated. But I also want to emphasize that I’m sure that parents have given their kids vaccines for much less risk. So, unless a parent is a hardcore anti-vaxxer, pretty much every child got their measle, mumps and rubella vaccine.

And you can look at rubella, for example, rubella was an outbreak that most symptoms are mild, they get a rash, a sore throat, a low-grade fever, but it’s really dangerous for pregnant people. A pregnant person who has rubella in the first three months of pregnancy, they have 90% chance of either miscarriage or severe fetal outcomes. So, we vaccinate kids who barely get any symptoms just to protect pregnant people in the community.

So, we’ve done that. And we reached basically herd immunity. The last time we had an outbreak was back in the early ’90s. So, if you compare the two, there’s so much more justification for a COVID vaccine. Again, in the panel that was just done with the CDC and ASIP, which is the panel that recommends immunization. I know a lot of parents who wanted to vaccinate their kids were waiting for a long time. They were hoping it would come by maybe getting in the school year and really waiting, waiting, waiting, it’s because they just wanted to be meticulous about the data for safety and efficacy, and they had it. And that panel voted 14 to zero to recommend vaccination for that age group, just overwhelmingly with no dissent. So clear on the data. So those are just some things I really want parents to think about and consider when considering vaccinating their kids.

Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And I think, as this episode is published and as the months go on, we’ll see more and more data on that. So, some people feel are always going to be early adopters of something new, other people are going to be middle, hesitant, more late, and then those who don’t do it at all. So there’s almost like a little bell curve of people.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. And I think as we move more towards mandating vaccines in this country for things like federal jobs, or I know it’s being litigated right now for larger businesses, a lot of people who just put it off and were maybe a little hesitant said, “Eh, I think I’ll get it, and I’ll get my vaccine.” And they see that they’re fine. And then maybe another person in their household saw that they got vaccinated and been fine and decides to get vaccinated for that reason. I’m really hopeful people just continue to share their stories of vaccination being safe and this trend will turn over time. Although, I know it feels, for a lot of us, like it’s not moving fast enough.

Rebecca Dekker: But it is amazing to think how, in the beginning of 2020, there were no treatments, no prevention, and not even really a widely available test and how far we’ve come so quickly.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: My gosh. Yeah. Not only that, but just access to things like rapid testing, there are-

Rebecca Dekker: PPE. Yeah.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: … absolutely. Oh my gosh, yes. I will never recover from the trauma of having to reuse my N95 masks for a week. Just really the wide availability of PPE, of masks, of vaccines, of available COVID 19 testing, including rapid home testing, things like monoclonal antibody treatment for patients who are hospitalized, seeing a benefit and being able to treat patients better.

When I lived in New York City at the height of it, it was just so devastating, because no one had any idea what to do, but there’s been so much study on how to treat patients with COVID. And now there are even some trials that look really, really positive for antiviral medication. So, even if you are a vaccinated person and got a low-grade COVID infection, and were concerned about long COVID risk thinking that you could take an antiviral pill, the second you knew you were positive is also a real hope for the future.

So, I’m really hopeful and optimistic. But the one place I think we really do need to… The biggest factor is making sure that everyone is vaccinated. That’s how we really get rid of this virus. And that means not only in the US, but also internationally as US reopens its border to the world right now, we’re allowing vaccinate travelers to come into the country.

But as long as COVID continues to flare in other places of the world, and we see more mutations that are there, there’s still the risk of continued spread ongoing. So, I think that, as we talked about, sometimes pharmaceutical companies can suck and be kind of evil. We need to continue to really push our elected officials to push the pharmaceutical companies to make this vaccine widely available to the entire world.

Rebecca Dekker: Well, Dr. De-Lin, thank you so much for sharing all this information. Are there any other resources you want to point people to, any favorite places you go to for accurate information?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. I really love the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They are the organization that everyone who practices within my field uses for how we practice medicine and how we treat patients. But it also has a lot of resources for patients about understanding information about health. And just for general health, I really recommend the CDC itself as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, for people who have kids and want to know about what’s safe do for their kids in terms of both protecting them against COVID infection and COVID vaccination.

Rebecca Dekker: Awesome. Thank you so much. And we also have a handout on the COVID vaccine and pregnancy at evidencebasedbirth.com/COVID19. In addition to, I know there’s handouts at CDC, and ACOG and other websites as well.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah. And I also wanted to add too, that since pregnant people are considered an immunocompromised group, there is a recommendation from ACOG to get a booster. So, for patients who were vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines, either Moderna or Pfizer, six months prior, their second vaccine was the months prior, it is recommended for them to get a booster. Or if you had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, also a booster is indicated. So, we really, really want to keep pregnant patients healthy and out of the hospital.

Rebecca Dekker: Okay. Good to know. I thank you so much Dr. De-Lin, and how can people follow you and your work?

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Yeah, you can find me on Instagram @stacydelin_md.

Rebecca Dekker: Awesome. Thank you so much, everyone, for listening and thank you, Dr. De-Lin, for joining us today.

Dr. Stacy De-Lin: Thanks so much for having me.

 

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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