BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Should pregnant women get the COVID vaccine? It’s been a big topic of discussion for 19 months.

Mercy Health Maternity Services is getting five to 10 calls a day from pregnant women who are testing positive or have a positive family member.

On Friday, Dr. Tom Zarlingo gave an ultrasound to Chelsea. Her baby is 15 weeks along and she was getting a good report on its condition.

Zarlingo is the director of maternity services at St. Elizabeth Boardman. He surveys the vaccine rate at the hospital.

“Less than 20 percent in pregnant people in our community and it’s led to a significant increase in the number of people that come in with infection,” he said.

Zarlingo says he’s seen as many pregnant women with COVID in the last six weeks as he has in the last 19 months.

He thinks the women believe that it’s safer for them and the baby to be unvaccinated.

“I think people think that, but it’s not true, because what you do prevent is severe disease, and that’s really the most significant thing,” Zarlingo said.

His concern is the Delta variant is more transmissible, and for pregnant women who get COVID, he feels they need to understand the possibilities.

“The principle thing with pregnant women is if they develop severe disease, there’s a higher incidence of pre-eclampsia, which is high blood pressure in pregnancy,” Zarlingo said.

He’s also concerned about premature rupture of membranes and pre-term birth from expecting women who catch COVID.

Two weeks ago, the CDC issued an urgent recommendation for pregnant women and those who have recently given birth to get vaccinated.

It had confirmed 125,000 COVID cases in pregnant women, leading to more than 22,000 hospitalizations and 161 deaths.

“My response to anybody that’s concerned about the vaccine is it’s much more dangerous to get COVID than it is to be vaccinated,” Zarlingo said.

Zarlingo says the COVID vaccine in the mother can transmit antibodies to the baby before delivery and after delivery when they breastfeed.