All pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday. The combined vaccine protects against whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus and diphtheria.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says the vaccine is safe for pregnant women, and disease-fighting antibodies can transfer to the unborn baby to provide protection against whooping cough early in life.
That's important, officials say, given whooping cough's prevalence this year. In April a whooping cough epidemic was declared in Washington State, and to date there have been 4,387 cases reported. More than 3,800 cases have also been reported in Minnesota, nearly 5,000 have been reported in Wisconsin, and Colorado has seen nearly 1,100 cases of pertussis.
In total 32,000 whooping cough cases have occurred this year including 16 deaths, on track to be the most infected with the disease in one year since 1959.
The committee voted 14 to zero with one abstention to make the recommendation. The only other vaccine the panel recommends for pregnant women is for influenza.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease caused by bacteria that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. Because it can be difficult to breathe, those with the disease make a "whooping" sound when they inhale, leading to the illness' commonly known name. Infants are especially affected by the disease and need to be monitored in case they stop breathing.
In February, it voted that all U.S. adults should get at least one dose of Tdap vaccine -- including those 65 and older - to prevent teens and adults from spreading the disease to infants, what's referred to as "herd immunity."
The CDC has more on vaccines for pregnant women.