New research: Vaccine for pregnant women protects babies from whooping cough

Doctors suggest women get the Tdap vaccine between 27 and 40 weeks of pregnancy. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Doctors say many expectant mothers are missing an important step to keep their baby healthy after birth.

The T-Dap vaccine protects against pertussis, also known as whooping cough. It is a highly contagious respiratory disease. For adults it’s just an annoying cough that may hang around for a while, but for infants it can be much more serious, even sometimes causing death.

The Centers for Disease Control suggests all pregnant women get the T-Dap vaccine during their third trimester. That allows the vaccine to take effect before the baby is born.

New research shows 78 percent of cases are prevented in mothers who get that injection. It’s also 90 percent effective in preventing serious cases. However, just less than half of pregnant women are getting the T-Dap vaccine, just 49 percent. The study was conducted by CDC researchers who looked at data from six states between 2011 and 2014 that are part of the U.S. Emerging Infection Program Network.

Dr. Emily Scott with IU Health said many people think whooping cough is a thing of the past. Cases nationally have declined from about 200,000 cases annually in the 1940’s to just about 11,000 reported so far this year. But in some areas of the country, including Indiana, Dr. Scott said complacency is leading to a reversal in that trend.

“Indiana has actually doubled their whooping cough rate in the past year, from 2016 to 2017, so while it’s important for moms all across the U.S. to get vaccinated, in Indiana women should really pay special attention to making sure that shot gets done,” Dr. Scott said.

Dr. Scott says there are no risks associated with the T-DAP vaccine. Babies start receiving the shot at two months old.

“So in the first two months of life, babies don’t have any protection against pertussis unless their moms have been vaccinated during their pregnancy and we know that that vaccine now is preventing 78 percent of cases in babies that are vaccinated,” Dr. Scott said.

The CDC says it is most important for mothers to receive the vaccine while pregnant, but other family members should as well, including dads, grandparents, and anyone else who will be spending time with the baby in those first two months of life.