March of Dimes: Pregnant women need Pertussis vaccine

Due to substantial increases in reported pertussis cases (aka: whooping cough), an urgent call has been put out for every pregnant woman to get a Tdap immunization during every pregnancy. The number of cases has essentially tripled in the Northwest over the past several years.

The alert has been issued by the Oregon Perinatal Collaborative. The OPC, convened by March of Dimes in 2011 to eliminate early elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks, is a group of health care leaders focused on improving perinatal outcomes through collaboration and evidence-based practices.

“The disease in adults is usually mild — in fact, so mild that it is often not recognized,” said Duncan Neilson, M.D. and VP of Surgical Specialties at Legacy Health. “Unfortunately, newborns are very sensitive to this disease which can be quite severe and even fatal.”

“We are finding the vaccines in use 20 to 30 years ago for pertussis didn’t produce life-long immunity,” adds Aaron Caughey, M.D. and chair of OB/GYN department at Oregon Health and Science University. “So we’re now seeing a significant resurgence of this disease in the entire country, and especially in Oregon and Washington.”

“The best way to protect newborns is to vaccinate the mother during pregnancy — every pregnancy — especially in the last three months, with optimal timing between 27 and 36 weeks’ gestation,” said Joanne Rogovoy, March of Dimes state director of program services. This will safeguard the baby until he or she is able to be vaccinated; which isn’t until two months after birth.

“It is maternal antibodies that cross the placenta and protect the newborn,” said Mark Tomlinson, M.D. and regional medical director for obstetrics, Oregon Region, for Providence Health and Services. “The amount of these antibodies steadily decreases over time to low levels. Although low levels can still protect the mother, they are much less effective at protecting the newborn.” That is why a Tdap vaccination is recommended during each pregnancy regardless of vaccination intervals.

This recommendation from the Oregon Perinatal Collaborative and March of Dimes for mom to get immunized in the last three months of each pregnancy is echoed by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Plans, Oregon Health Authority, Centers for Disease Control and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

For the latest resources and information, visit or Find out what’s going on in the Greater Oregon Chapter by visiting

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