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Next pertussis epidemic expected soon, CDPH urges action to prevent infant pertussis

January 06, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Vaccination 


Since 2010, over 2,500 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) have been reported in infants younger than 4 months of age in California. Eighteen of these infants died, and more than half were hospitalized. In 2016, two babies died from pertussis in California, one a healthy, full-term baby. These deaths are a devastating reminder that all prenatal care providers should have a Tdap vaccination plan in place to ensure moms and their babies are protected.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice recommends that all pregnant women be immunized with Tdap at the earliest opportunity, between 27-36 weeks gestation of every pregnancy. Tdap vaccination of women during pregnancy is the optimal strategy to protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated. Infants can start the childhood whooping cough vaccine series (DTaP) as early as 6 weeks of age. Even one dose of DTaP may offer some protection against fatal whooping cough disease in infants. As pertussis incidents peak every three to five years, most recently in 2014, prenatal care providers must act now to protect infants before the next epidemic peak is expected in 2017-19.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) recently issued a joint letter to providers urging them take steps now to help protect infants against pertussis. Included in the letter is detailed guidance for providers who vaccinate on-site as well as for those referring for vaccination off-site. All prenatal care providers are urged to provide a strong recommendation to their patients to receive Tdap and document receipt of Tdap vaccination (or refusal) in their chart. Providers who must refer patients for vaccination off-site should assist patients in locating a local immunization provider/clinic that is covered by their insurance and follow up in subsequent visits to ensure patients have received the vaccine.

Click here to read the CDPH and DHCS advisory letter.

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