Panel Advises Pregnant Women To Get Whooping Cough Vaccine
After a frightening resurgence of whooping cough this year, an expert panel is urging expecting mothers to get a shot preventing the dreaded childhood disease, preferably in the last three months of her pregnancy to help protect her baby.
The advice comes on the heels of one of the nation's worst years for whooping cough since 1959, with more than 32,000 cases, including 16 deaths, being reported in 2012.
The new advice, approved in a vote Wednesday by the government’s vaccine advisory panel, is only the second time a vaccine has been advised for all women during pregnancy. The first, flu shots, were recommended for them in the 1990s.
Derived from the sound children make as they gasp for breath, whooping cough, aka pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that attacks the immune system. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of infected newborns got the disease from their mothers, so health officials have advocated to get older children and adults vaccinated to reduce the number of carriers who could potentially infect vulnerable infants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite a combination vaccine —including protection against pertussis— being offered to expectant mothers either before or during pregnancy, fewer than 3 percent of pregnant women have gotten the vaccination.
And despite long-standing childhood immunizations, cases have been rising in the past decade, with most affecting infants two months and younger — too young to be vaccinated because their immune systems are too immature.
While CDC officials acknowledge their limited data set, the panel emphasized the new vaccination recommendations, saying there's no evidence of serious risk to either mothers or newborns.
In fact, they estimated that enacting the recommendation could reduce whooping cough cases by 33 percent, hospitalizations by 38 percent and deaths by 49 percent.
"The benefits of vaccination outweigh the theoretical risks," said Jennifer Liang, a CDC epidemiologist who presented the benefit estimates to the panel.
[image via AP]