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Protect Young Infants from Pertussis: Immunize Pregnant Women with Tdap

The Immunization Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) would appreciate your sharing the attached short article with your organization’s members through your newsletters and other means.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is always a threat to young infants, though its magnitude can vary by year. Over 9,100 cases of pertussis were reported in California during 2010, the most in more than a half-century. Pertussis historically has 3-5 year cycles of increased disease; pertussis cases are likely to increase between 2013 and 2015.

Public health officials are urging all health care providers to educate families about the dangers of pertussis and to immunize all pregnant women between 27 and 36 weeks with Tdap during EACH pregnancy, even if they received Tdap in the past.

Young Infants at Highest Pertussis Risk

  • Young infants are most susceptible to severe consequences from pertussis, including hospitalization and death.
  • Immunization against pertussis with DTaP cannot be started until the infant is at least 6 weeks of age.  Infants need 3 doses of DTaP by 6 months of age for optimal protection.
  • Young Infants are dependent on maternal antibodies for protection.
  • Early recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of pertussis in young infants are important for this vulnerable population.

National Recommendations: Immunize with Tdap in 3rd Trimester for Optimal Protection

  • There is evidence that antibody levels decrease in the years after receiving Tdap.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends immunizing every pregnant woman between 27 and 36 weeks gestation with Tdap, no matter when she received an earlier dose, to maximize the amount of maternal antibody protection transferred to her young infant.

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