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College of Pharmacy

Pertussis vaccine recommendations for pregnant women

Pertussis, generally known as whooping cough, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by a strain of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.  In the United States in 2010, 3,350 cases of pertussis were reported in infants <6 months of age.  Pertussis may cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications in infants, which can be most severe during the first 6 months of life.  Among infants younger than 1 year of age who contract pertussis, more than half must be hospitalized, approximately 1 in 5 of those hospitalized will develop pneumonia, and 1 in 100 hospitalized infants will die.

There are currently no pertussis vaccines licensed or recommended for newborns, so the best way to prevent pertussis in newborns and infants is through maternal vaccination.  Historically, women received the pertussis vaccine soon after giving birth; however, in June 2011 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that the Tdap vaccine be given to pregnant women who have not previously received the vaccine.  Following review of the currently available clinical data, the ACIP concluded that there is no increase in adverse events among pregnant women who have received the Tdap vaccine or in newborns whose mothers received the vaccine while pregnant.  Healthcare providers should administer the Tdap vaccine after 20 weeks gestation as this optimizes transplacental transfer of maternal pertussis antibodies and may provide protection against pertussis in early life before infants can begin the DTaP series.  Additionally, women vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy will also be protected at the time of delivery and will be less likely to transmit pertussis to their newborn infants.

The ACIP also recommends that adults and adolescents receive a Tdap booster vaccine to protect against pertussis, especially those in contact with infants younger than 12 months of age.

For additional information regarding the use of the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/tdap-pregnancy-hcp.htm

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