HONOLULU (KHON2) — The COVID-19 virus claimed the lives of two pregnant women in Hawaii during the month of September.

“We had our second maternal deaths from COVID recently, and these are moms who actually contracted the disease when they were pregnant, and then deliver their baby and subsequently pass away from COVID-19,” explained Dr. Stacy Tsai, chair of the Hawaii State Maternal Mortality Review Committee.

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She said both babies were doing okay.

She could not disclose much information for privacy reasons but said both women were severely ill.

“We haven’t had to really intubate anybody, or put breathing tubes in with the alpha strain, so the delta variant is affecting our pregnant moms, I think more severely,” Dr. Tsai said.

She said pregnant women have a higher risk of being on a ventilator, in the ICU and dying than non-pregnant women who contract COVID.

“We are seeing higher rates of women either going into labor early or actually having to be induced early because their disease is so severe, and they can’t breathe, right? When you can’t breathe, you’re also not giving your baby oxygen,” Dr. Tsai also explained.

The CDC recommended pregnant women get the vaccine in April after studies showed no obvious safety concerns for 35,000 women and their babies.

“We are not seeing an increased risk of complications, we’re not seeing an increased risk of miscarriages, birth defects or really any complication,” she continued.

“Your immune response actually could cross the placenta and actually help the baby,” Dr. Tsai added. “And the protective immunity actually goes through your breast milk so when you’re breastfeeding the baby, it actually give the baby immunity against COVID-19.”

She suggests pregnant women should talk with their doctors if they have any concerns about the vaccine.

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“When a mom dies, the entire community and the entire family suffers,” Dr. Tsai said, “and I really, really, really want to prevent future deaths, maternal deaths from COVID-19, and I think the answer is to get everybody vaccinated.”