Idaho Perinatal Project

Pertussis (Whooping Cough) — CDC Talking Points

Surround Babies with Protection

You can provide indirect protection to your baby by making sure everyone who is around him is up to date with their whooping cough vaccine. When your baby’s family members and caregivers get a whooping cough vaccine they are not only protecting their own health, but also helping form a “cocoon” of disease protection around the baby during the first few months of life. Anyone who is around babies should be up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccine.

Your baby is most likely to catch whooping cough from someone at home.

Researchers investigate reported cases of whooping cough to better understand the disease, including how it spreads. In some studies they have been able to identify how a baby caught whooping cough. They determined that in most cases, someone in the baby’s household, including parents and siblings, got the child sick. These studies also show that there are many other people that could get babies sick, including grandparents and caregivers.

It is true that cocooning may indirectly protect your baby from whooping cough, but it might not be enough to prevent whooping cough illness and death. This is because cocooning does not provide any direct protection (antibodies) to your baby, and it can be difficult to make sure everyone who is around your baby has gotten their whooping cough vaccine. Since cocooning does not completely protect babies from whooping cough, it is even more important that you get the vaccine while you are pregnant; you will pass some short-term protection to your baby until he can get his own vaccine.

Cocooning, in combination with getting a whooping cough vaccine during your pregnancy and making sure your baby gets his vaccines on time, provides the best protection possible to your baby.

Encourage others to get a whooping cough vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby if they are not up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccines.

Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine While You Are Pregnant

It is important for women to get the whooping cough vaccine in the third trimester of each pregnancy. Vaccines are the best way to prevent this disease. There are 2 different whooping cough vaccines. Both vaccines combine protection against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria, but they are for different age groups:

  • Tdap: for everyone 11 years or older, including pregnant women
  • DTaP: for children 2 months through 6 years of age

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine for adolescents and adults (called Tdap vaccine) during the third trimester of each pregnancy.

You should get the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant to pass protection to your baby.

Whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy is ideal so your baby will have short-term protection as soon as he is born. This early protection is important because your baby will not start getting his whooping cough vaccines until he is 2 months old. These first few months of life are when your baby is at greatest risk for catching whooping cough. This is also when he’s at greatest risk for having severe, potentially life-threating complications from the infection. To avoid that gap in protection, it is best to get a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy.