Whooping cough vaccine recommended for all pregnant women
October 24th, 2012
03:26 PM ET

Whooping cough vaccine recommended for all pregnant women

A federal advisory committee is recommending all pregnant women be immunized for pertussis or whooping cough.

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met Wednesday and voted 14 to 0, with one abstention, to recommend health care providers begin immunizations programs for Tdap.  This is a vaccine that provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

The committee says the vaccine should be administered during each pregnancy in the late second or third trimester (27 to 36 weeks gestation), regardless of whether the patient has had Tdap in the past. If that's not possible, the mother should receive the vaccine immediately after childbirth or before leaving the hospital or birthing center.  Jennifer Liang, a member of the ACIP pertussis vaccine working group, told the committee the vaccine is very safe in all trimesters and could be given at any time during pregnancy.

“This is a great opportunity for obstetricians to help their patients protect their newborns and themselves," said Dr. Richard Beigi, member of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  immunization work group and the ACIP’s pertussis working group. "I urge all obstetricians to recommend and give Tdap vaccine to their pregnant patients.”

Pertussis, also called whooping cough because of the whooping sound made when the patient breathes, is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease caused by bacteria.  Initially it resembles the common cold, but patients experience uncontrollable, violent coughing.  It's considered extremely serious in infants and can cause permanent disability and death.

Medical experts say getting the vaccine during pregnancy allows the mother to transfer pertussis antibodies to the newborn. That helps protect the infant until it is old enough to get vaccinated against whooping cough.  The whooping cough vaccination is usually is given at 2 months of age.  The vaccine also protects the mother during delivery, making it much less likely she'll transmit whooping cough to the baby in the first place.

ACIP says safety data show Tdap is safe for both the mother and fetus and that any potential risks are likely to be small.  The most common side effects reported were pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection.  Fever, headache and muscle pain were also reported, but there were no serious adverse events linked to the vaccine.

This new recommendation builds on ACIP's recommendation in 2011 to only give the vaccine to pregnant women who had never had Tdap in the past.  ACIP determined a single dose of Tdap during a pregnancy was not enough to provide protection for additional pregnancies.

According to the CDC, the United States is seeing a jump in the number of reported cases of pertussis.  More than 32,000 cases and 16 deaths have already been documented this year, most of those in infants. It's the largest number since 1959.

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