Whooping cough vaccination should be given to pregnant women before birth. Via stock.xchng
A new study published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases says that pregnant women should be vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough before giving birth in order to provide enough protection to newborns during their most vulnerable period.
The study showed that it takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for a woman’s body to be protected against the bacterial illness. Until two weeks has passed since the injection, a mother’s body could have the bacteria and infect her infant. Also, there will not be enough antibodies against the illness in her breast milk to protect the infant during that time period.
Dr. Scott Halperin, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said, “This means that there is a window of time when she and her young baby are not protected”.
Since newborns cannot be vaccinated, experts have recommend the “cocoon strategy” of protecting them, meaning that parents, siblings and caretakers of a baby should all vaccinated against pertussis, thereby reducing the chances of the baby getting the illness. Even after this recommendation, vaccination rates for whooping cough are low.
The recent recommendation by the CDC for pregnant women was based on studies which showed that a woman’s antibodies for a particular disease could be transmitted to her baby during pregnancy, providing protection from the moment of birth.
Halperin, who was the lead researcher on the study, and his colleagues were interested in what would happen if women waited to get the vaccine until immediately after birth. He said, “We wanted to see how quickly a woman’s antibody levels would go up, and how quickly those would start being transmitted to her infant through breast milk.”
The scientists gave the pertussis vaccine to 30 women, then measured the levels of antibodies in their blood and breast milk. The pertussis antibodies were detectable after seven days, but had the highest concentration after two weeks.
The findings support the June recommendation from an advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that all pregnant women should receive the whooping cough vaccine during their second or third trimesters.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said, “This finding really adds rationale for vaccinating during pregnancy…It will help everyone — both moms and doctors — understand why immunization during pregnancy is better than this window of risk.”
Schaffner expressed that there is still more to do, however, saying “The vast majority of the adult population is not vaccinated…And obstetricians don’t always see the dads in their offices, they don’t see the siblings or the baby sitters.”
Although it was once considered almost eradicated, the illness has been climbing in incidence over the last 25 years. Infants under six months old currently have the infection rates and death rates for pertussis, according to the study.
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