Women who are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant should receive a whooping cough vaccination to protect the baby, according to a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices voted last year to recommend women get a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccination between the 27th and 36th week of their pregnancy.
The recommendation was posted on the CDC website in December and recently became official when published in the MMWR (Morbidity, Mortality, Weekly Report). The change is to maximize the maternal antibody response and passive antibody transfer to the infant.
Babies don’t get their first pertussis vaccine until 2 months of age — and even then, they aren’t fully protected until after their third shot, at 6 months. In the interim, they are at especially high risk of getting very sick from the bacterial disease.
During a 2010 whooping cough outbreak in California, for example, more than 9,000 cases were reported and 10 infants died, Reuters reported.
CDC officials said the protection from a Tdap vaccination wanes rapidly and pregnant women should take the additional precaution.
Dr. Cecelia Powless of Community Howard Regional Health said the change is a result of an increase in whooping cough cases in babies.
Powless said Community Howard had been giving women a Tdap vaccination immediately after their pregnancy, but that will now take place in the second and third trimester.
She said all adults who will be in close contact with a baby should get a Tdap inoculation, which would include fathers, siblings, grandparents and other adult relatives and friends.
Powless said it was recommended about seven years ago that adults get a Tdap vaccination as a booster.
“They used to give a booster shot just for tetanus, and there was waning protection against whooping cough,” she said. “The vaccinations are to protect us and those around us.”
Powless said the CDC also recommends pregnant women receive a vaccination for rubella, also known as German measles.
“The intent is to build a cocoon of immunization around pregnant women,” she said. “The baby receives protection through the mother before birth and after through breastfeeding.”
Dr. Maryann Chimhanda of St. Joseph Hospital said women trying to get pregnant should receive a Tdap vaccination.
She said most people receive a Tdap vaccination between the ages of 7 and 18 and should get a booster as an adult. Chimhanda said once an inoculation is received as an adult for pertussis, another vaccination is not necessary.
“This is all being done to protect the babies,” Chimhanda said.
Karen Long, a public health nurse with the Howard County Health Department, said the change in the recommendation is so the immunity will transfer to the baby.
“The recommendation for a women to get a Tdap vaccination during every pregnancy is a change from the former guidelines,” Long said.