Pertussis can cause serious, even deadly infection in infants, but more mothers are adhering to a recommendation to receive the pertussis vaccine during pregnancy to protect their baby for the first few months of life.
Bordetella pertussis, the bacterium that causes whooping cough, is highly contagious and can cause serious and even fatal infection in newborns. Research has shown that mothers who are vaccinated during pregnancy pass immunity on to their newborns, and in late 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics—began recommending that all pregnant mothers receive the vaccine between 27 weeks and 36 weeks gestation.
A recent study from Kaiser Permanente highlights the efficacy of the vaccine, noting that maternal Tdap vaccination was 91% effective at protecting infants against pertussis in the first two months of life and 69% effective in the first year of life in a survey of nearly 150,000 infants born at one of its medical centers in Northern California between 2010 to 2015.
Infants receive their own DTaP vaccination at two, four and six months of age, but maternal vaccination during pregnancy—sometimes called cocooning—can be effective in preventing pertussis prior to an infant’s first DTaP dose. Maternal antibodies start to decline around 6 weeks of age, but don’t go undetected until nearly 4 months of age, according to the report.
Previously, pregnant mothers were encouraged to get the vaccine in the immediate postpartum period, but that changed in late 2012. Since then, industry leaders have been working to spread the message about the new recommendation, and their work appears to be paying off. According to new surveillance from CDC, the number of pregnant women following the recommendation has jumped to 48.8% in 2016 from 27% in 2014.