A nurse in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital intensive care unit, takes a moment to comfort a COVID-19 patient. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

An unvaccinated woman who died earlier this week was the first pregnant San Diego person to die from COVID-19, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Friday.

The woman died this week after being hospitalized, as did her unborn child. Her age and other details about her death and pregnancy were not being reported to protect her family’s privacy.

“This is a very unfortunate death, and our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased,” said Dr. Seema Shah, medical director of HHSA’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services branch. “Contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy puts you at greater risk of having serious complications and death.

“We urge anyone who is pregnant and unvaccinated to get immunized to protect themselves and their babies,” Shah said.

Dr. Joanna Adamczak, a maternal-fetal specialist and chief medical officer of Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, called the news “heartbreaking and tragic,” and echoed the medical advice.

“We, as health care providers, urgently encourage anyone who is pregnant, or plans to get pregnant, to get the vaccine. It provides important protection for both mom and baby.”

On Wednesday, the HHSA issued a health alert to the local medical community cautioning of an increase in cases and hospitalizations among unvaccinated pregnant women, and encouraging them to urge their patients to get vaccinated.

From June 1 through Sept. 30, there have been 253 laboratory-confirmed cases among pregnant women, including 203 among those not fully vaccinated — compared to 50 who were fully vaccinated. Of the 253, a total of 31 required hospitalization; 30 of those hospitalized were not fully vaccinated.

“Not fully vaccinated” is defined as being unvaccinated or having received only a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. “Fully vaccinated” is defined as being 14 days removed from the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In late September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory strongly recommending that people get vaccinated against COVID-19 either before, during or after pregnancy “including those who are breast-feeding” because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known and potential risks.

According to the CDC, pregnant women who contract and develop symptoms from COVID-19 “have a two-fold risk of admission into intensive care and a 70% increased risk of death.”

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.