Most pregnant women in the U.S. don’t get both the flu and whooping cough vaccines in spite of the fact that together, these two immunizations can protect them and their newborns from illnesses that can be especially serious for them, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].
The CDC polled nearly 2,100 women between the ages of 18 to 49 who were pregnant between August 2018 and April 2019. They found that while 54% said they had gotten a flu shot and 55% said they had received Tdap – the vaccination which includes pertussis, or whooping cough – only 35% had received both vaccines.
Overall, the pregnant women surveyed said their top reason for not getting vaccinated against influenza was the belief the vaccine was ineffective. The main reason for not getting the Tdap vaccine was not knowing it was needed for each pregnancy. Another common reason for not receiving either vaccine was concern for their infants’ safety, despite both vaccines’ proven history.
“Influenza and whooping cough are serious infections that can be deadly for babies,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said in a statement accompanying the report. Since 2010, up to 20 babies have died each year from whooping cough in the U.S.
In infants, whooping cough can lead to episodes of coughing during which “parents may see their babies gasping for air and even turning blue from lack of oxygen,” Schuchat added. It can also lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and seizures.
Maternal vaccination reduces the risk of hospitalization from influenza in babies younger than 6 months – the age after which they can receive flu shots themselves – by an average of 72%, the report said. In infants under 2 months of age, the Tdap vaccination is 77.7% effective in preventing whooping cough and 90.5% effective in preventing hospitalizations from the disease, the report noted.