Pertussis vaccination strategies for young infants

August 7, 2012

More effective ways of combating pertussis in young infants, such as vaccinating pregnant women, should be considered, according to the authors of a new study.

More effective ways of combating pertussis in young infants – such as vaccinating pregnant women – should be considered, according to the authors of a new study.

The study, published online July 23 in the Journal of Pediatrics, was led by Kathleen Winter, MPh, in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health.

In reviewing more than 9,000 cases of pertussis reported to the California Department of Health in 2010, the researchers found that all 10 deaths and most hospitalizations occurred in infants younger than 3 months. In addition, Hispanic infants younger than 6 months had the highest disease rates.

“Infants too young to be fully vaccinated against pertussis remain at highest risk of severe disease and death. Data are needed to evaluate strategies offering direct protection of this vulnerable population, such as immunization of pregnant women and of newborns,” the researchers wrote.

In June 2011, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended Tdap vaccine for pregnant women after 20 weeks.

The researchers also found high pertussis rates in fully vaccinated preadolescents, particularly 10-year-olds. “The high rate of disease among preadolescents suggests waning of immunity from the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis series,” the researchers wrote.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) is taking a leadership role in the initiative set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that has asked community pharmacists to help raise awareness of pertussis vaccinations amid the growing national outbreak of the disease.

Kathleen Jaeger, NACDS’ senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy, is being featured in an online, print, and media outreach effort to bring attention to the outbreak, according to an NACDS press release. She will also note the accessible and professional solution that community pharmacies provide.

“With their extensive expertise, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to promote and provide vaccines to patients,” NACDS wrote in the release. “We appreciate the CDC’s recognition of community pharmacy’s important role in the healthcare delivery system, and we stand ready to help protect patients and their loved ones from this disease.”

Pharmacists can administer the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine to adults in 43 states, including Washington State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, the three states with the highest rates of reported incidences. The CDC is recommending that adults who come into close contact with young infants receive the vaccine at least 2 weeks prior to contact.

To learn more about pertussis (or whooping cough), click here.