Create a "Vaccine Cocoon" for Babies

Immunizing households for whooping cough reduces the risk that young babies will it

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) The cases of whooping cough in the U.S. this year are the highest they have been since 1959. And the best way to protect the ones you love is to get the vaccine.

A recent study found that simply making sure family members — especially mom — are vaccinated can create a safer "cocoon" for babies too young for the vaccine.

"Vaccinate your family for whooping cough."

The study was led by Sabine C. de Greeff, MSc, of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Dr. de Greeff and colleagues analyzed data on who caught or transmitted pertussis within individual households during a study that ran from February 2006 to December 2009.

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a contagious disease caused by bacteria. A person with whooping cough will have a cough so bad that they can have difficulty breathing and it often causing a "whooping" sound.

The disease usually is not a severe, life-threatening condition for adults, but it can be fatal to infants, especially those under 2 months old who have not yet been vaccinated for it.

The researchers in this study focused on 140 households in which pertussis was identified.

They calculated the risk of transmitting the disease to young babies depending on who in the household had received the vaccine.

They found that overall, rates of pertussis within households were high if one person had the disease, which is extremely contagious.

Fathers appeared to be less likely to get the disease than others in the family, and mothers appeared to be more likely to pass along the infection to their babies than any other adult or child in the home.

In fact, in 40 percent of the households, it was the mom whose pertussis infection was passed along to the baby.

If dad is the one with pertussis, there's a 15 percent risk that the baby will catch the disease.

However, if a mother who is vaccinated against pertussis, her risk of infecting her child is decreased from 40 percent to 5 percent.

Therefore, the researchers concluded that making sure all mothers have received the pertussis vaccine, given in the TDaP booster, would decrease the risk of the baby catching pertussis.

Although siblings seemed less likely to pass on the disease to the youngest members of the household, they were more likely to bring the disease home in the first place. Therefore, making sure brothers and sisters are up to date on the vaccine is advised as well.

"Vaccination of siblings is less effective in preventing transmission within the household, but may be as effective overall because siblings more often introduce an infection in the household," the authors wrote.

The study was published September 26 in the journal Epidemiology. No information was provided regarding funding, but the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 5, 2012
Last Updated:
October 8, 2012