Pregnant women urged to get whooping cough vaccine


by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 Healthlink

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Posted on June 12, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 5:56 PM

 "I've been told you're getting a pertussis shot today," said a nurse at Seattle Obstetrics and Gynecology Group to one of the expectant mothers at her morning office visit.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is most dangerous to newborns.  They can develop pneumonia and die from the disease. At this Seattle clinic all pregnant moms past twenty weeks gestation are now offered TDaP vaccines. Providers at the clinic said nearly all of their patients have heard of the epidemic and want the vaccine.

"The vast majority of my patients have been either asking for it or have been very willing to take it," said Dr. Cari Martin.

The vaccination gives a double layer of protection said Dr. Danielle Zerr. She's Director for Infection Prevention at Seattle Children's.
"A new strategy that's being targeted is to vaccinate the pregnant mom, because she will develop immunity and then pass that immunity on to the baby, which will last for several weeks after the baby is born," explained Zerr.

"That's what I was hoping. And that's great to hear. It would be great if there's no potential for the baby to get whooping cough in between birth and whenever he's immunized," said expectant mom Megan Watzke.

"In addition it'll protect the mother so that she's not acquiring pertussis and then passing it along to her baby," pointed out Dr. Zerr.

The double protection fills a crucial gap. Dr. Zerr sees babies with whooping cough at Seattle Children's.

"It's really the babies who are under six months of age who are at highest risk. And a baby can't be fully immunized until they're six months of age," Dr. Zerr said.

Another expectant mom, Gabrielle Mellon said the whooping cough epidemic is on her mind too. She won't need a TDaP vaccine today though. She, her husband, and her whole family, have already gotten the shots.

"We have two other children. One of them's in daycare. We want to make sure that, as they're around other children that potentially might not be getting vaccinated, we're doing our due diligence to make sure our children are protected," she said.

Dr. Zerr said, though there are no guarantees, it's hoped that as children get out of school and out of classrooms for the summer, the epidemic will slow down.