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One easy way pregnant women can protect newborns from whooping cough

The whooping cough vaccine should be a regular part of prenatal care, state health officials say.
The whooping cough vaccine should be a regular part of prenatal care, state health officials say.
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Pregnant women, listen up!

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California, and there's one very easy thing that you can do to protect your infants from the disease:

Get vaccinated during your third trimester.

State health officials say that when pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine – which protects against whooping cough, as well as tetanus and diphtheria – they also pass their immunity on to their infants.

This helps protect the newborns until they can get their first dose of the DTaP vaccine, at around six weeks. (Children are not considered fully protected until they’ve received at least three of the five recommended doses - usually by the time they are six months old.) 

This is a relatively new strategy. During the last whooping cough epidemic, in 2010, the public health recommendation was to surround infants with adults who’d been vaccinated – an approach called "cocooning."

But that proved logistically difficult. That year, 10 babies died of whooping cough in California.

So this new approach sounds like a simple solution, but...

As I reported Wednesday for KPCC, not enough obstetricians are vaccinating pregnant women against whooping cough.

Just 25 percent of women received the vaccine during pregnancy, according to a survey of 100 labor and delivery hospitals conducted by the state health department last fall.

There are all sorts of reasons why few OB’s have incorporated this approach into prenatal care, ranging from lack of familiarity with vaccines, to fear of harming the child, to the cost of starting an immunization practice.

But, this is really important, right?

Yes. So far this year:

If you're a pregnant women or new mom, what's your experience with whooping cough? Will you ask your OB about getting the Tdap vaccine? Did you already get it during your pregnancy? What about the rest of your family? Tell us about it in the comments section below, or e-mail us at You're experience could inform a future blog post!