ATLANTA — New research shows that a vaccine given to pregnant women can protect their babies from whooping cough, also known as pertussis. The findings, released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest that the vaccine can significantly reduce the incidence of pertussis in infants younger than 2 months.
Whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory illness, can be life-threatening for young infants. The illness can cause severe coughing spells, which can make it difficult for babies to eat, drink, or breathe. In severe cases, pertussis can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, or death.
The CDC study found that the incidence of pertussis decreased among infants younger than 2 months after the introduction of the tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine given to pregnant women. The study compared the incidence of pertussis in two time periods — the pre-vaccination period from 2000 to 2010 and the post-vaccination period from 2012 to 2019 — and found that the incidence rate significantly decreased in the post-vaccination period.
“These findings suggest that maternal Tdap vaccination is associated with a reduction in pertussis burden in the target age group,” the study authors wrote.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy, ideally between 27 and 36 weeks, to protect both themselves and their newborns from pertussis. The vaccine provides protection to the baby until they are old enough to receive their own vaccinations.
“By protecting mothers during pregnancy, we can ensure that their newborns have a strong defense against pertussis from the start,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, the CDC’s senior advisor for vaccines.
The CDC is continuing to monitor the effectiveness of the Tdap vaccine in reducing the incidence of pertussis in infants and plans to conduct further research to better understand the vaccine’s impact.