New Vaccine Recommendation Targets Pregnant Women

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The resurgence of whooping cough sparked a change in the latest immunization recommendations.

Health experts say what starts out looking like a cold can become the much worse bacterial infection, pertussis. Dr. Melissa Conroy of Topeka's PediatricCare says people with the illness develop a hard, prolonged cough. Adults might cough so hard they break a rib, while babies can turn blue from coughing so hard they lack oxygen.

Conroy says whooping cough is especially dangerous for infants under one year of age. Trouble is, babies can't get their first dose of the TDaP vaccine until they're at least six-weeks old.

That's why new immunization guidelines released in January direct moms-to-be to get a dose of the vaccine after 20 weeks of pregnancy and before they deliver. Plus, the recommendation is to get the vaccine during each pregnancy. Conroy says the thought is that some of the antibodies will pass to the baby, offering some protection until they're old enough to receive their immunization.

The recommendation builds on advisories issued when the pertussis outbreak was at its height last year. All adults who'll be around the infant should get a booster, too. Also, adolescents were instructed to get a booster around age 11.

Conroy says it's usually the parent or sibling who will pass pertussis on to the infant who is too young to be protected, so the goal is to create a "cocoon" of vaccinated people around the infant to keep the illness away from the child.

Health officials say only eight percent of adults have received a TDaP booster.

Kansas saw 860 confirmed and probable cases of the disease last year.