Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very contagious disease that can cause serious illness and death, especially in newborns and young infants who have not received all their vaccines.
- Whooping cough vaccines are the safest and most effective way to prevent this disease. Tdap is a vaccine that provides protection for older children and adults against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
- Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy. The recommended time to get the shot is between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, preferably during the earlier part of this period.
- When a pregnant woman receives a whooping cough vaccine, her body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to her baby before birth. These antibodies provide the baby some short-term protection against whooping cough. Newborn babies cannot start receiving their own whooping cough vaccines until 2 months of age.
- Whooping cough vaccines work. We no longer see 200,000 cases each year as we did before we had whooping cough vaccines.
Some people think of whooping cough as a disease of the past. While we no longer see the number of cases we did in the United States before vaccines were available, it is a growing health concern.
- Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of whooping cough in the United States.
- There were almost 18,000 reported cases of whooping cough in the United States in 2016.
Whooping cough can be serious for anyone, but it is life threatening in newborns and young babies.
- Up to 20 babies die each year in the United States due to whooping cough. About half of babies younger than 1 year old who get whooping cough need treatment in the hospital. Younger babies who get whooping cough are more likely to need treatment at a hospital.
- It is important to know that many babies with whooping cough do not cough at all. Instead, it can cause them to stop breathing and turn blue.
- Whooping cough is usually less severe in babies whose mothers got the vaccine while pregnant. Also, vaccinated babies are less likely to suffer from life-threatening pauses in breathing and end up in the hospital.
There are currently no whooping cough vaccines licensed or recommended for newborns at birth.
- Because there are no whooping cough vaccines licensed or recommended for newborns at birth, three vaccination strategies are used in combination to provide the best protection possible to newborns and young babies:
- Vaccinate pregnant women with Tdap vaccine in their third trimester, between 27 and 36 weeks (preferably during the earlier part of this period), to give their newborns short-term whooping cough protection (immunity).
- Make sure family members and caregivers are up to date with whooping cough vaccines before they meet the baby.
- Vaccinate babies on time, beginning at 2 months of age, so they build their own immunity and complete the vaccine series by ages 4 to 6 years old.
CDC recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine, called Tdap, during each pregnancy.
- After Tdap vaccination, the mother’s body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to her baby before birth. These antibodies give babies some short-term protection against whooping cough until they can begin building their own immunity through childhood vaccinations, starting when they are 2 months old.
- Antibody levels are highest about two weeks after getting the vaccine and decrease over time. The vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy between the 27th and 36th week, preferably during the earlier part of that period. This timing allows the mother to give her baby the greatest number of protective antibodies and the best possible protection against whooping cough.
One out of two pregnant women gets a whooping cough vaccine.
- During 2015-16, an estimated 49% of pregnant women in the United States provided whooping cough protection to their babies by getting a Tdap vaccine.
- The number of pregnant women who get a Tdap vaccine has been increasing over the years, but still half of all babies could be born with more protection against whooping cough.
When a baby’s family members and caregivers get a whooping cough vaccine, they’re protecting their own health as well as forming a protective circle of immunity around the baby.
- Whooping cough is very easy to spread. Because whooping cough in its early stages can appear to be nothing more than the common cold, it is often not suspected or diagnosed until the cough persists or becomes severe.
- Many babies who get whooping cough catch it from siblings, parents or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
- The term “cocooning” means vaccinating people who care for or come in close contact with babies. Cocooning is a strategy that is sometimes used in addition to Tdap vaccination during pregnancy.
- Cocooning alone might not be enough to prevent whooping cough illness and death in babies. This is why it’s so important for women to receive the whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy.
- Cocooning does not provide direct protection (the transfer of antibodies) to your baby. It can be difficult to make sure everyone who is around your baby has received a whooping cough vaccine.
Tdap is safe for pregnant women and their babies.
- All vaccines are held to the highest standards of safety, and CDC continually monitors vaccine safety.
- Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. However, most people who get a Tdap vaccine do not have side effects.
- The most common side effects of Tdap vaccine are mild (redness, swelling or tenderness where you receive the shot). Serious side effects are extremely rare.
- Getting a Tdap vaccine during your pregnancy will not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications.
Getting whooping cough or a whooping cough vaccine (as a child or an adult) does not provide lifetime protection.
- In general, Tdap fully protects about 7 out of 10 people who receive it against whooping cough, but protection fades over time. Tdap fully protects between 3 and 4 out of 10 people from whooping cough four years after receiving Tdap.
- While protection from whooping cough vaccines fades over time, people who get whooping cough after receiving the vaccines typically do not become severely ill.