Pertussis Vaccine Recommended for Mom and Baby

Whooping cough cases on the rise in 2014

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

(RxWiki News) With a recent spike in the number of cases tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors are reminding pregnant women and parents of small children of pertussis vaccination guidelines.

Prior to the wide availability of a vaccine in the 1940s, pertussis, also called whooping cough, was a major cause of childhood death.

Pregnant women should get the shot in their third trimester and follow up with a vaccine for baby, according to both the CDC and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

"Talk to your OB-GYN about whooping cough vaccines."

The number of whooping cough cases declined in 2013 to 28,639, the CDC reports. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 16 this year, however, there were 17,325 reported cases — a 30 percent increase over the same time frame in 2013.

Whooping cough is an infectious disease that causes uncontrollable coughing. It’s easily transferred through the air and is particularly dangerous to infants and children.

"Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial illness that causes persistent coughing, but in children, especially young children, it can cause serious respiratory infection with severe inflammation of the upper airway that can obstruct breathing and require breathing support in some," explained Dr. Joel Maslow, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

"While pertussis can be treated with antibiotics, a delay in diagnosis when the disease is not suspected can result in the need for hospitalization and may have a prolonged hospital course," Dr. Maslow said.

A vaccine is available for pertussis, the CDC notes.

""Pertussis is easily prevented by vaccination, and while almost all adults have received vaccination in childhood, studies have shown that immunity may have waned by early adulthood at the time of childbearing and so the CDC has advised all adults (especially prospective or current parents and grandparents) receive a booster vaccination injection," Dr. Maslow said.

"Infants do not respond well to the pertussis vaccine, and so the best protection is to ensure that the adults in contact with them are vaccinated to ensure that they have a 'protective cocoon' of individuals who are protected against pertussis," he said.

“This spike in whooping cough may be due to the fact that the vaccine does not protect against the disease for long and parents who don’t vaccinate their children may be creating more opportunities for whooping cough outbreaks,” said Sarah Wagner, MD, an OB-GYN at Loyola University Health System, in a press statement.

The CDC and ACOG suggest pregnant women get the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Moms-to-be who get the vaccine pass important antibodies on to the baby. The shot is given late in pregnancy because the vaccine works best two weeks after the shot.

Babies receive the whooping cough vaccine around 2 months old, followed by a booster around age 11 or 12.

“There are currently no whooping cough vaccines recommended for newborns at birth, so we recommend that all of our pregnant patients and those around the baby get the vaccination,” Dr. Wagner said. “The vaccination is the best way to prevent whooping cough in the baby and reduces the risk of infant hospitalizations and deaths from this disease."

Review Date: 
September 10, 2014
Last Updated:
September 26, 2014