Tetanus diphtheria and Pertussis Vaccine (Tdap) and Pregnancy

Pertussis, otherwise known as Whooping Cough, is a disease that causes severe coughing; vomiting and can lead to complications including pneumonia and even death. This, along with Diptheria, and tetanus are all caused by bacteria. Before vaccines were available, these diseases were very common. The Tdap vaccine protects against three diseases: Tetanus, a central nervous system disease, Diphtheria, a dangerous respiratory infection, and Pertussis.

Before 2005, only children could get the pertussis vaccine. However, the pertussis vaccine is now available for adults and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccination for pregnant women and people in contact with infants younger than 1 year of age.

One question that has come up is why do pregnant women need to get the vaccine if infants are vaccinated? The reason is that infants, especially the very young infants are more vulnerable to having a severe illness and even death from pertussis. Vaccinating pregnant women will pass antibodies to the newborn before and during birth.

The ACIP recommends Tdap administration after 20 weeks’ gestation to maximize the maternal antibodies transmitted to the fetus and infant. This should provide protection until the infant’s first vaccination at 2 months.

There is much evidence that tetanus and diphtheria vaccines are safe during pregnancy. Data from patient registries maintained by the vaccine manufacturers (Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals) indicate that Tdap is safe. No evidence exists of risk from vaccinating pregnant women with inactivated virus or bacterial vaccines or toxoids. The Tdap vaccine is from inactivated bacteria.

Talk to your healthcare provider for more information about this important new recommendation.

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