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Protecting Young Babies from a Preventable Disease: New Guidelines Advise Whooping Cough Vaccination in Pregnancy

May 13, 2014
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a very serious disease that can be life-threatening for newborns and infants who contract it. It’s also one of the country’s most vaccine-preventable diseases. Approximately 42,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States in 2012, but the true occurrence may be even higher.

“Cases of whooping cough often go unreported because, in adulthood, the symptoms of the disease are less distinct than they are in children. These statistics reiterate the importance of vaccination.”
In October 2012, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) revised guidelines on whooping cough vaccination, recommending that women receive a tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) during the third trimester of each pregnancy.

“Receiving Tdap between the 27th and 36th week of each pregnancy is safe and can offer your baby protection until he or she is old enough to be given the pertussis vaccination directly,” Dr. Sanda states. “When a pregnant woman receives Tdap, her body begins developing antipertussis antibodies, which pass through the placenta and shield the baby against whooping cough in early life.”

ACIP recommends that individuals who will be in close contact with the baby, including the baby’s father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends, be vaccinated as well. “By keeping those in contact with your baby healthy, you are limiting your baby’s exposure to disease,” says Dr. Sanda, who notes that Tdap vaccination guidelines for people who are not pregnant have also recently changed. “It was once thought that vaccination against whooping cough during adolescence was enough to offer a lifetime of protection. However, research indicates that is not the case. We should get the tetanus and diphtheria(vaccine) Td every 10 years in adulthood. One of these doses should be the Tdap formulation, which has the whooping cough component,” she says. ACIP further advises Tdap vaccination for adults aged 65 years and older, whether or not they will be in close contact with an infant, as the elderly population is at a high risk of experiencing life-threatening complications from whooping cough.

“The effectiveness of vaccines is dependent upon each individual’s immune system and varies somewhat for everyone. Therefore, staying current on your booster shots is the best way to ensure your vaccinations are going to remain effective,” says Dr. Sanda. “It’s easy to get a false sense of security because illnesses like pertussis, measles and mumps aren’t as prevalent as they used to be, but we must remember the devastation these diseases have caused in the past and keep focusing on prevention.”

Your primary care physician can help you decide what vaccinations may be appropriate for you. To find a primary care physician, visit or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

Additional Adult Vaccinations Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control

Influenza (Flu): once a year
Varicella (Chicken Pox): two doses to all adults who have no evidence of immunity
HPV Vaccine for Women and Men up to 26 years old: three doses over a six-month period
Zoster (Shingles): one dose at age 60 or older
Pneumococcal (pneumonia): one dose at age 65 or with other chronic conditions
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): one dose if the vaccination wasn’t received during childhood. Individuals are also encouraged to talk with their primary care physicians to find out if they might benefit from other vaccinations, such as meningococcal (meningitis), Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B. Caption
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