Whooping Cough: Are You Vaccinated?
by Dr. Navid Mootabar, Co-Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northern Westchester Hospital. & Dr. Peter Richel, Chief of Pediatrics, Northern Westchester Hospital
Pertussis — more commonly known as whooping cough — might seem like an outdated concern. However, cases have been on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The thought had been that there was lifelong immunity from the vaccine. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Immunity lasts about five to ten years. In 2010 there were 27,550 cases of pertussis in the United States, and 3,350 were in infants less than six months of age; the infection was fatal for 25 of those infants. That’s why the CDC now recommends that all pregnant women be immunized.
Why vaccinate expectant moms? In 30 to 40 percent of infant infections, the mother is the source of the infection. We usually vaccinate the mother between 27 and 36 weeks into the pregnancy. This means she’s protected and that she can pass on pertussis antibodies to the baby in utero. Doctors administer the Tdap vaccine — an inactive version that protects against pertussis as well as tetanus and diphtheria. According to the CDC, it is very safe for mothers and babies. We’ve found that mothers are very receptive to getting the vaccine.
Dr. Peter Richel, Chief of Pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital, recommends that families of newborns take an extra precaution: Cocooning. This is the strategy of vaccinating all of the baby’s caregivers: Dad, grandparents, and day care workers. Basically, anyone who will have prolonged contact with the infant should get the Tdap at least two weeks before caring for the newborn.
Whooping cough is very hard on people of all ages, but especially infants. According to the CDC, one in five infants with whooping cough goes on to develop pneumonia. Admissions at the hospital for pertussis have risen, so we’re really stressing to expecting families that they take care of the Tdap vaccinations. Infants receive their first in a series of Tdap vaccinations at two months of age, but they don’t gain full immunity until six months. This is an easy way to make sure your baby is safe from pertussis.
Learn about wellness for you and your baby at Northern Westchester Hospital, visit www.nwhMaternalChild.org.