WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An event called "Play date to vaccinate" was drummed up by Dr. Jill Hechtman, an OBGYN hospitalist at St. Mary's Medical Center.
"As of May, only 11% of pregnant patients are vaccinated, and that number is really low, and when I am admitting patients on the daily basis to the ICU that are pregnant, I need to work harder and do better to get that message to pregnant women," she said. "Every patient that I've admitted to the ICU, they've all said to me, 'I wish I had the vaccine,' so it is my job, my colleagues' job, to get to these patients earlier."
Hechtman said the event will be a carnival of sorts with food, music and raffles outside the Palm Beach Children's Hospital at St. Mary's Medical Center. The vaccine will be offered at the same time. The fun twist on a serious subject comes from a realization.
"Right now the messaging is not working," she said. "Yelling at people, arguing on Facebook, mandating, it's not really getting to the people who need to be vaccinated, so we needed to come up with a creative way to inspire people to talk to their physician, talk to their midwife and get vaccinated."
Nurses from both shifts will be on site, along with doctors and midwives. Hechtman said these people are there to answer questions and want to answer them.
"I hope I can inspire at least one person to consider getting the vaccine," Emma Roberts, a nurse manager at Palm Beach Children's Hospital, said.
Roberts was pregnant during the pandemic and said she received the vaccine in January ahead of having her baby in March.
"It's bad, and it's real on the news," she said. "It's not hysteria. It's real. My biggest push is to at least go and talk to your OB team and get your questions answered. Trust your OB. None of this is made up. ... It's real, unfortunately, and at the end of the day, this could save you and your baby. That's the decision I had to make for me and my baby."
Hechtman said now is the time to reach more women.
"The delta variant is coming for them, and so what we are seeing is respiratory distress, respiratory failure," she said. "It's causing them to have to deliver their babies early and that is dangerous."
Hechtman wants to reach more pregnant women directly.
"Because of all the misinformation, the doctor-patient relationship has been strained," she said. "That's the reason I am going out to this measure to talk to patients."
She went on to address the hesitancy in pregnant women.
"Out of all the people in America afraid to get the vaccine, the pregnant population is the actual one population that has the right to be hesitant, right?" she said. "We don't let you have more than Tylenol during pregnancy, so we have to be super careful, but the vaccine technology has been around for 10 to 12 years. It's safe. ACOG, the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine, and now the CDC now recommend that you get the vaccine. So I feel confident in telling patients it is the right way to go."
The event will be held on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pregnant women and their family and friends, who meet the criteria, can get vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine will be offered at the event.