Baby might not be eligible for the whooping cough vaccine—DTaP—until she's two months old, but that doesn't mean you can't protect her from the infection. In fact, when women get the adult version of the shot (Tdap) during pregnancy, protection for baby is even stronger.
Whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, isn't usually dangerous in adults. But over half of babies diagnosed with pertussis need to be hospitalized, and in some cases, it's fatal. A new study out of Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center found that when moms-to-be get a booster version of Tdap between weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy, it’s more than 91 percent effective at preventing pertussis during baby’s first two months of life. For reference, it takes five doses of the DTaP vaccine over the course of several months to get baby to 98 percent immunity.
Regardless of when you had your last Tdap shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pregnant women get a booster because of rising infection rates in the US.
This new study shows mom’s immunization is even more effective for baby than previously thought. A 2014 study from Australia showed babies were 42 percent less likely to be diagnosed with whooping cough when mothers were up to date on their vaccinations.
Part of the reason mom’s immunity is so important is because she passes antibodies to baby both in the womb and via breastfeeding. However, the effectiveness of those antibodies against whooping cough does decline over time after birth, dropping from that initial 91 percent to 81 percent between baby’s first and second DTaP shots. In other words, mom’s vaccine isn’t enough; baby definitely still needs to get vaccinated.
Wondering what other vaccines are coming baby’s way, and when? Check out our guide to baby’s vaccination schedule.