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Health & Science

Pertussis Shot During Pregnancy Could Save Vulnerable Newborns After Birth

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine have completed a study on the effectiveness of vaccinating pregnant women for pertussis, or whooping cough, before they give birth.



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The recent death from pertussis of a baby in the Austin area has focused attention once again on the resurgence of this disease, also known as whooping cough. Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine have completed a study on the effectiveness of vaccinating pregnant women before they give birth.

Babies get their first vaccine against pertussis when they are two months old. But that leaves a very vulnerable window of time in which they can contract the bacterial illness and even die.

Since 2012, the CDC has recommended that pregnant women get a pertussis vaccine during the last trimester.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have just published the first randomized, controlled clinical study in the U.S. of how well that strategy protects the newborns.

 “The vaccine was safe and very well-tolerated during pregnancy and women who are pregnant respond to the vaccine just like non-pregnant women do,” said Dr. Flor Munoz, the lead author. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Doctors have known for a while that antibodies in a pregnant mom can cross the placenta and give immunity to the fetus.

Munoz says this study built on that knowledge, but they wanted to see how long the effect lasted.

“And indeed we were able to show that babies of mothers who received the vaccine during pregnancy had significantly higher concentrations of antibody in the first two months of life – so not just at birth, but lasting up to two months of age, compared to babies of mothers who did not receive the vaccines during pregnancy.”

This protection can protect the baby until he or she reaches the age of two months and get their own vaccination. The study also found that the pregnancy vaccination did not affect the babies in any way, or interfere with the normal response to their own round of vaccines at two months.

Munoz says she hopes her study will give women and their doctors confidence that the strategy works and is safe. She says along with a flu vaccine, the pertussis vaccine should be a routine part of each pregnancy.