August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is dedicated to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination. A point of emphasis is the protection of infants through vaccination of pregnant women.
Pertussis, or “whooping cough,” is a very contagious respiratory disease that can cause serious illness in infants and young children. The majority of deaths from pertussis occur in children less than 3 months old, but babies cannot receive pertussis vaccine until they are 2 months old. Therefore, an important strategy to protect the most vulnerable children is to vaccinate the adults who will be around a newborn baby.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women receive pertussis vaccine in their third trimester. Others who will be around the new baby – including siblings, grandparents, and babysitters -- should receive the pertussis vaccine at least 2 weeks before visiting a newborn baby. For more information on the pertussis vaccine, the CDC offers materials on whooping cough for adults and pregnant women.
In a 2013 NPCH Report, we asked adults about their opinions about protecting newborns against pertussis. 72% of adults agreed that parents have the right to insist that visitors receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby in the hospital, and 61% agreed that parents should make sure all adults receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby at home. However, 61% of adults did not remember when they were last vaccinated against pertussis.