CDC panel: whooping cough vaccine OK for pregnant women

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The US has seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases of whooping cough in the last few years. The disease is most dangerous for infants. Of the people to die of pertussis in the last decade, 78 percent were infants less than 1 month old, and another 12 percent in children 2-3 months.

The best method for preventing and containing the disease is vaccination, according to the CDC, and in order to make those vaccines more effective, they are now suggesting that pregnant mothers get the pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus (DtaP) vaccine in their third trimester.

The idea is that both the mother and the child are inoculated at the same time. The child is very likely to be born with an immunity, thus decreasing the chances of infection – or unthinkably, death – in those especially vulnerable first months of a newborn’s life.

Previously, the CDC had recommended a method of prevention called “cocooning,” where everyone that is expected to be in immediate contact with the infant would be inoculated just after birth, including the father, mother, siblings, grandparents, and anyone else who would be close to the child.

This “cocooning” method has proven to be ineffective by itself, according to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the committee that made the recommendation to the CDC, which still has to vote to adopt it.

The idea is to both vaccinate the mother in the third trimester as well as close contacts, and continue on a vaccination schedule for the child after that, which normally occurs at 2, 4, and 6 months.

Precisely how vaccination in the third trimester will affect the child’s response to further vaccines after birth is not yet known.

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