Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mom’s Gift of Vaccination Protects Baby From Whooping Cough

Moms do all they can to keep their babies safe and healthy. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, the physicians of Texas Medical Association (TMA) urge pregnant moms and moms-to-be to get vaccinated against whooping cough, or pertussis.

“Babies can’t get their first pertussis vaccine until they are 2 months old, so mom’s vaccination helps protect them during these early weeks of life,” said Jeanne S. Sheffield, MD, a Dallas obstetrician/gynecologist and member of TMA’s Committee on Infectious Diseases. “Whooping cough is especially dangerous for babies under one year of age, possibly even deadly, so getting vaccinated is an easy and effective thing a mom can do to help keep them healthy.”

The Tdap vaccination (a combination vaccination that protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) is recommended during each pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the vaccination may be given any time during pregnancy, the CDC recommends pregnant moms receive it between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation, or during the third trimester.

Vaccinating women with Tdap during pregnancy helps them develop antibodies against pertussis that are passed on to the baby, said Dr. Sheffield. The protection is two-fold: Mom is less likely to catch and pass whooping cough to her baby, and baby gets protection from the disease until he or she can begin to get vaccinated. Because babies require a series of pertussis vaccinations once they’re old enough, they are not fully protected until they’re close to 18 months of age.

Of course, not only mom could pass pertussis on to the baby. In most cases, infants catch pertussis from a family member or caregiver. Pertussis symptoms in adults can be mild, so a mother, father, or other caregiver might unknowingly spread pertussis to a baby.

That’s why physicians recommend that all adults who will come into contact with the baby get a Tdap vaccination. This includes parents, siblings, grandparents, child care providers, and health care workers. “We call this ‘cocooning,’ ” said Dr. Sheffield, “where you protect the defenseless baby in a vaccine cocoon until baby can protect him- or herself.”

Texas reported 3,985 pertussis cases in 2013, the most cases in a year since 1959, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Eleven percent of those (most of them children under age 1) ended up in the hospital, and all five of the people who died of pertussis in 2013 were infants. In 2014, statistics improved slightly with 2,576 cases of pertussis and two infant deaths (based on preliminary data).  

If you’re pregnant, physicians say, ask your doctor about Tdap vaccine. TMA has published a fact sheet about the importance of pertussis vaccination, in English and Spanish

Be Wise — Immunize is funded by the TMA Foundation, thanks to generous support from H-E-B and TMF Health Quality Institute, and gifts from physicians and their families.

Related: Dad’s Vaccination Helps Protect Baby From Whooping Cough

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