Why is the Tdap Vaccine so Important?

April 9, 2012

Tdap Vaccine

I am pregnant and have been hearing about the importance of the Tdap vaccine.  Why is it so important for family members to get it?

Tdap is the vaccination to help prevent infection with pertussis, the bacteria responsible for causing whooping cough. Unfortunately pertussis is still common and tends to spread because it is contagious and hard to differentiate from a cold.  It can affect anyone causing persistent uncontrollable coughing spells, but doctors worry most about it in young infants.   The younger an infant is, the more likely he or she is to have severe symptoms from whooping cough. And, the child can even die from it.  Even though it is a bacteria, antibiotics often do not help the symptoms of the illness much.  

Pertussis is one of the illnesses vaccinated as part of the routine immunizations that every infant should get. However because the vaccinations can't be given until 2 months old, newborns are not protected against pertussis for those first two months.  Recent studies have shown that giving the vaccine to pregnant mothers can provide immunity to newborns even before they get their first dose of pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.  Receiving the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, as well as vaccinating family members, achieves a protective “cocoon” for a newborn so that hopefully no one can infect the child with pertussis before he or she is vaccinated.

By Andre Krainik, MD, pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy.