Another Pregnancy To-Do: Get the Whooping Cough Shot
The CDC now recommends that all pregnant women get vaccinated against pertussis to help keep their newborns safe
While you may have gotten a flu vaccine this year, when was the last time you had a whooping cough (a.k.a. pertussis) booster? If you are a mom-to-be, take note: an expert panel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging every pregnant mom to get a whooping cough shot in the form of the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) vaccine.
Why the new recommendation? In case you’ve missed the headlines, it’s been a very bad year for whooping cough. In states like Texas and Illinois, doctors have seen double the number of pertussis cases in since 2011; in New York, Nevada, and Washington State, the increase has been three-fold. In total, more than 32,000 cases, including 16 deaths, have been reported so far in 2012. (You can see the CDC’s pertussis outbreak map here.)
A highly contagious upper respiratory infection caused by bacteria, whooping cough can be fatal to babies under the age of two months—and because they lack immunization, it is easier for infants to contract pertussis (vaccines typically start at two months). Experts say getting the vaccine during pregnancy allows the mother to transfer pertussis antibodies to the newborn, a way to help protect the infant during those first few months.
So if you’re a mom-to-be, what do you do now? The CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends pregnant women receive a dose of the Tdap vaccine each time they become pregnant. The ideal time to get the shot is at the end of the second trimester or sometime during the third trimester. According to the CDC advisory, if a mom is not vaccinated during pregnancy, Tdap should be given immediately after giving birth, before leaving the hospital or birthing center.
“Optimally, women should receive Tdap between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation, to maximize the maternal antibody response and passive transfer of antibodies to the infant,” says Dr. Jennifer Liang, the lead CDC member of the ACIP pertussis vaccine work group.
Based on panel’s review, the evidence is “reassuring” that two doses of Tdap are safe for women during pregnancy, finds Liang. The panel voted 14-0 (with one abstention) in favor of the new vaccine recommendation.
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