NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Three doctors from the largest health care system in Louisiana, including a pregnancy care physician who gave birth to a healthy baby after being vaccinated late in her pregnancy, cited medical data and personal experience Friday as they sought to persuade more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ochsner Health system officials called the news conference in what they said was an effort to combat pervasive social media misinformation about the vaccines — particularly “myths” that the shots can reduce fertility or affect pregnancy outcomes.

“People need to hear it loud that the COVID vaccine does not increase your risk for infertility, it does not increase your risk of miscarriage or any bad pregnancy outcomes,” said Dr. Jane Martin, who specializes in high-risk pregnancy care. She said she received vaccine shots in the 34th and 37th weeks of her recent pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby.

Ochsner officials said earlier this week that about 90% of Ochsner physicians are vaccinated. But the overall employee vaccination rate is about 63%. Unfounded worries over the vaccine’s effects on fertility and pregnancy have been among the reasons employees give for not wanting the vaccine, system officials have said.

“It was an easy decision for me,” said Martin. She said she’s seeing an increasing number of pregnant women sick with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit.

The news conference was held as Louisiana COVID-19 numbers continue to soar, with more than 5,000 new cases reported Friday and 120 new hospitalizations. Hospitalizations totaled 1,740 in the latest figures, an increase of nearly 1,500 in one month.

Joining Martin at the Ochsner news conference were Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Ochsner’s Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention, who said her three teenagers are vaccinated and Dr. Erin Biro, a neurosurgeon who said that she and her husband decided to enroll their three children, all under age 6, in a pediatric trial for the Pfizer vaccine.

The physicians cited a new report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, findings from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gov. John Bel Edwards scheduled an afternoon news conference Friday to discuss the growing number of cases. His administration released orders late Thursday requiring Louisiana’s executive branch employees and visitors to state office buildings to wear masks, regardless of whether they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new order was released from Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne’s office.

Employees at state offices are to maintain physical distancing. Masking is required in all common areas of state buildings, including halls, stairways, elevators and restrooms. Employees can work without masks in their regular private work space if physical distancing is possible.

Among other aspects of the order are requirements that teleconferencing and “virtual meetings” be held, when possible, instead of in-person meetings.


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