Protecting Your Newborn From Pertussis or "Whooping Cough" - Kamm McKenzie OBGYN

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Protecting Your Newborn From Pertussis or “Whooping Cough”

Originally published in July 2012. Written by Dr. Ashley Rush.

Vaccination against pertussis, commonly referred to as “whooping cough,” has recently gained intense media attention due to rising infection rates in the U.S.   In fact, pertussis infection rates in 2012 have reached the highest number they have been in the last 5 years, with 18,000 cases already reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this year. This growing awareness of pertussis infection has generated many excellent questions from our expectant parents during routine OB visits. You’ve inspired me to summarize the most current information on pertussis and recommendations for vaccination.

What is Pertussis and Why is it so Important?

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes severe coughing.  It is commonly known as “whooping cough” because people with pertussis often make a “whooping” sound when they try to breathe after the characteristic coughing spells. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children, but is especially dangerous, even fatal, for babies less than 1 year of age. The bacteria Bordatella pertussis is spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, and the susceptible person or infant, breathing in the bacteria.  Many infants who get pertussis are actually infected by parents, siblings and caregivers who are unaware that they have the disease. It is very important to understand that infants are at high risk of contracting pertussis until they can be vaccinated with the DTaP vaccine at 2 months of age. 

As children, we are vaccinated against pertussis as part of the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccination series.  Most adolescents then receive a Tdap booster at age 11 or 12. Both the DTaP and Tdap vaccines protect against the same diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis infections, but DTaP is only indicted for children under age 7, and Tdap is a booster for adolescents and adults. However, immunity against pertussis after our childhood vaccination series is not lifelong.  

Who Should Receive the Tdap Vaccine?

The CDC and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend that all adolescents and adults who have, or anticipate having, contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age, and who have not already had a Tdap booster, should receive the Tdap vaccine. This Tdap booster protects against pertussis and reduces the risk of transmission to the infant. Ideally, these adolescents and adults should receive their Tdap vaccine AT LEAST 2 WEEKS PRIOR TO having contact with the infant.

  • If you are pregnant and have not received a Tdap vaccine, or are unsure if you have received a Tdap vaccine, you should receive the Tdap vaccine after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  The Tdap vaccine is an INACTIVE (ie: NOT LIVE) vaccine and DOES NOT contain thimerosal.
  • Your spouse, partner, nanny, and all other adolescents and adults having close contact with your infant, should also be vaccinated. 
  • If you are post-partum and did not previously receive the Tdap vaccine, you should receive it immediately.   Be reassured that the Tdap vaccine may be safely administered to breastfeeding mothers. 

For the general population, the CDC recommends the following people receive a Tdap vaccine: 

  • All adults ages 19-64
  • Adults over age 65 who have never had a Tdap vaccine and anticipate contact with an infant less than 12 months old

Routine vaccination recommendations also include a Td (tetanus-diphtheria) vaccine every 10 years for adolescents and adults. The Tdap vaccine may replace your Td vaccine when you are due or may be given at any time, even if you received a Td booster within the past 10 years.

Where Can I Receive a Tdap Vaccine?

The Tdap vaccine is now administered at both of our Kamm McKenzie OB/GYN offices. Please speak with you provider if you are interested in scheduling an appointment for the vaccine. Currently, we are only offering the vaccine for our patients and not their family members (unless they are patients as well).

Your family and caregivers may receive the Tdap vaccine through their primary care physician or many of the local urgent care offices. Be aware that if they choose to receive the Tdap vaccine through an urgent care office, they may be required to pay out of pocket for this service. 

Near our Durant Medical Center location, family members and caregivers may receive Tdap at the Rx Urgent Care on the 1st floor of Durant Medical Center, Suite 110. They provide vaccinations as “walk-in” appointments Monday-Friday 8 am-6 pm and Saturday/Sunday 9 am-1 pm. The Tdap cost is $98 if the vaccine is not covered by their health insurance plan. 

NextCare Urgent Care also has many convenient locations in Raleigh, Garner and Cary. The NextCare Urgent Care at 4100 Wake Forest Road (intersection of Wake Forest Road and New Hope Church Road) is near our Computer Drive location.  They also provide vaccinations as “walk in” appointments Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday/Sunday 8 am-4 pm.  The Tdap cost is a flat $107 out of pocket fee. 

I hope this provides everyone with a thorough understanding of pertussis, the importance of Tdap vaccination, and some practical information on where to get the vaccine and begin protecting your newborn. If you have any further questions, please ask any of our providers about pertussis and the Tdap vaccine at your next routine OB visit.

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