Doctors: Get pertussis vaccine to prevent whooping cough

September 5, 2012 10:48:37 AM PDT
The pertussis vaccine can protect babies against the deadly whooping cough. Now, doctors are making a new recommendation to give them even more protection. They not only want pregnant moms to get it, they want to make the whole family get a pertussis booster!

Sara Miller was surprised when her OB/GYN told her she needed to get a pertussis vaccination in her third trimester.

"It's something that we're just starting to hear more and more about," Miller said.

Miller had a pertussis vaccination as a child. But it turns out the vaccine wears off.

"Your immunity wears off and you become susceptible again between 5 to 10 years since either your last shot or since you had the actual disease. So you get the disease recurrently throughout your lifetime," said Dr. Catherine Healy, a vaccine expert at Texas Children's Hospital.

That's one reason why Texas is having an outbreak of pertussis, also called whooping cough. There have been 895 cases through July -- double last year.

For adults, pertussis can be like a cold with a cough that won't go away. But babies get that cough that sounds like a whoop.

"When babies get this, it can be catastrophic. They require ICU admissions and some of them don't recover, and it's easy, it's really easy to prevent," said Dr. Laurie Swaim, an OB/GYN at Texas Children's Hospital for Women and Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Swaim is among a growing number of doctors that insist all her patients get pertussis vaccinations in the third trimester. And she insists their families get it too.

When a family member objects, and sometimes they do...

"I just point out to them that it's about the baby, not about them," Dr. Swaim said.

It's been recommended for adults for the past six years but only 8 percent of adults have gotten a pertussis vaccination.

No one needs a prescription. Just go to your doctor, or pharmacy and tell them you need a pertussis booster, especially if someone in your family is expecting a baby.


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