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Tdap Vaccine During Pregnancy Prevents Whooping Cough Infection in 78% of Newborns

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that when pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy it can prevent whooping cough in about 78% of newborns; however, only about 50% of pregnant women receive the vaccine.

CDC investigators analyzed data on babies younger than 2 months, from 6 states. The data were recorded between 2011 and 2014. Not only did the results reveal that vaccination during the third trimester prevented 78% of whooping cough cases, they showed that the vaccine was also 90% effective at preventing more serious cases that require hospitalization.

Despite these promising statistics, recent data on pregnant women who gave birth between fall 2015 and spring 2016 showed that only 49% of the women received the vaccine. (Babies do not receive the vaccine themselves until they are 2 months old.)

Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases commented on the study results in a press release, stating, “Women have such a great opportunity to help protect their babies before they enter the world by getting the Tdap vaccine while pregnant. This study highlights how babies can benefit when their mothers get the vaccine and reinforces CDC's recommendation for women to get the Tdap vaccine in the third trimester of each pregnancy.”

According to the CDC, between 5 and 15 babies too young for the vaccine die from whooping cough in the United States each year. The infection causes a strong distinctive cough with a “whoop” sound, that can make it difficult for a baby to breathe. Those babies analyzed in the study who contracted whooping cough at younger than 2 months of age required hospitalization. The infection poses the greatest risk for babies under the age of 1.

More than 200,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States each year prior to the 1940s when a vaccine was first introduced. Despite a sharp decline of the infection in the United States through the 1970s, whooping cough started to make a comeback in the 1980s. According to the press release, “Since 2010, there have been tens of thousands of whooping cough cases reported each year nationwide, with a peak of more than 48,000 cases reported in 2012. More than a third of all whooping cough hospitalizations and two-thirds of all whooping cough deaths are in babies younger than two months. To date in 2017, more than 11,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the United States.”

The CDC started recommending that women receive a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy in 2012. Doctors and midwives are advised to “administer Tdap at 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy, preferably in the earlier part of that period,” according to the CDC.

More information on the CDC’s recommendation for Tdap during pregnancy is available on the CDC website.
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