August is National Immunization Awareness Month and a great time to discuss childhood vaccines (see previous post), but also a good time to discuss vaccines for adults. Adult vaccines help to protect our children. Specifically, Tdap vaccination during pregnancy.
Immunizations may protect a newborn….and this is accomplished by immunizing the mother during her pregnancy. It is routinely recommended that all pregnant women receive the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine at 27-36 weeks’ gestation. The goal of maternal immunization is to provide the newborn infant with “passive protection” from circulating antibodies that cross the placenta. Passive antibodies will provide the newborn some protection from disease, specifically pertussis (whooping cough), prior to the first dose of DTaP given at the 2 month pediatric visit.
A recent study published in Pediatrics looked at the effectiveness of maternal Tdap vaccine on preventing pertussis in newborns. In the study of over 140,000 infants there were 17 cases of pertussis in infants under 2 months of age, and 16 of those cases were in infants born to unvaccinated mothers. There was only 1 case of whooping cough in the vaccinated group. In other words, maternal Tdap vaccine provided 91.4% effectiveness in preventing pertussis in the first 2 months of an infant’s life. Pretty great odds!!
This is important data in that whooping cough has become more and more prevalent in the United States and is especially dangerous in young infants. By immunizing a pregnant mother these precious newborns are protected. The study also found that maternal Tdap vaccination during pregnancy reduced an infant’s risk of pertussis by an estimated 69% in the first year of life.
So…the importance of vaccines during pregnancy is well studied and I know my pregnant daughter in law who is now in her last trimester will be getting her Tdap, as will her husband.
It is equally important that pregnant women receive flu vaccine in their last trimester…and the 2017-2018 vaccines are just arriving. Studies have found that this maternal antibody also transfers to the baby and is protective for those infants born during flu season who are too young to receive flu vaccine, which is not given prior to 6 months of age.