Protecting the Youngest Against Whooping Cough

Hospital pertussis vaccination program for new mothers increased vaccination rate significantly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Mothers are the source of over 30 percent of the whooping cough infections in infants. A novel vaccination program took advantage of that fact.

Even though infants begin to get vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis) at two months of age, they still can get the disease before they've completed the full vaccination series. And pertussis in an infant can be deadly.

These researchers studied a program to vaccinate new mothers in the hospital against pertussis, since mothers can be a source of pertussis infection in infants.

This program proved to be effective, and more than two thirds of the new mothers were vaccinated against pertussis.

"Discuss your baby’s vaccinations with your pediatrician."

Sylvia Yeh, MD, from the Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, led this research team.

One CDC study showed that the mother was identified as the source of pertussis infection in 32% of infants. In 2008, to decrease the rate of pertussis in infants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended vaccination of new mothers.

Dr. Yeh and colleagues created a program to implement this recommendation in a hospital (test hospital) in California. Women were given the opportunity to opt to have the vaccination.

This phase of the research made extra steps for health care providers and the vaccination rate was low. As a result, in 2010, the researchers changed the study design slightly.

Starting in 2010, a standing order was created for all newly-delivered women to be vaccinated. Women could refuse, but if they didn’t, they were automatically vaccinated as part of their care.

The rates of pertussis vaccination at the test hospital were compared to another hospital (control hospital) in California where no pertussis vaccination program was in place.

Reviews of medical records provided the numbers of women vaccinated at each hospital. A total of 1,264 records were reviewed, 658 at the test hospital and 606 at the control hospital.

At the beginning of the study, when women were given the option for vaccination, the hospital vaccination rate of new mothers went from 0 to 19 percent.

Following the implementation of automatic vaccination after delivery in the test hospital, the rate of vaccination rose to 69 percent.

There were no records of pertussis vaccination of any new mothers at the control hospital during this period of this study.

At the test hospital, 24 percent of the women refused to be vaccinated after delivery. In 20 of the 110 refusals, a reason was given. The majority of those who refused wanted to talk to their doctor before they were vaccinated.

“Our study demonstrated that hospital based procedures are effective for an increase in [pertussis] vaccination among previously unimmunized women after delivery, compared with relying on standard community practices,” the authors concluded.

This research was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Funding for this study was provided by a grant from the CDC.

Review Date: 
March 7, 2014
Last Updated:
March 8, 2014