Women Have More Options to Protect Babies

Pertussis vaccine administered during the third trimester of pregnancy
Whopping cough vaccination
by Rebecca Scholz
(Precision Vaccinations)

Women can give their babies protection against whooping cough (pertussis) before their little ones are even born, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a second, safe vaccine that prevents whooping cough from achieving that goal.

When these (Tdap) vaccines are given during pregnancy, it increases antibodies in the mother, which are transferred to the developing fetus.

On January 10, 2023, the FDA announced the Adacel® vaccine (Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid, and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine, Adsorbed) is now approved for immunization during the third trimester of pregnancy.

As well as an active booster immunization against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis for use in persons 10 through 64 years of age.

The initially approved vaccine for this indication was Boostrix in 2022.

These FDA approvals are great news since whooping cough is a serious disease that can be deadly for babies.

According to the CDC, 4.2% of the total cases of pertussis reported in the U.S. were in infants younger than six months of age, and approximately 31% required hospitalization.

"Pertussis disease is a highly contagious respiratory illness affecting all age groups. However, babies are at the highest risk for getting pertussis and having serious complications from it," said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a press release on November 7, 2022.

"While vaccination is the best method for providing protection, infants younger than two months of age are too young to be protected by the childhood pertussis vaccine series."

"This is the first vaccine approved specifically for use during pregnancy to prevent a disease in young infants whose mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy." 

The CDC and these medical associations, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Family Physicians, recommend all women receive Tdap during the 27th through 36th week of each pregnancy.

Protective antibodies are at their highest about two weeks after vaccination, but passing them to the baby takes time. So, the CDC says the preferred time to get Tdap is early in the third trimester.

Additionally, women pass some whooping cough antibodies to their babies by breastfeeding. 

Furthermore, the CDC says the Tdap vaccine is very safe for pregnant women and their babies and cannot give pregnant women whooping cough.