Did you know that about half of babies diagnosed with whooping cough (also known as pertussis) end up in the hospital? Most of these babies were infected by someone at home. Thousands of people in California get whooping cough every year, but it’s the babies who can get really sick, have trouble breathing (turning blue or gasping for air), end up in the hospital, and sometimes even die. Unfortunately, the first infant death from whooping cough in California this year was in Orange County. Just in the past decade, there was one year in which 10 babies in California died from whooping cough!
It’s Not “Just the Flu” When You Are a Baby.
Hundreds of babies under 6 months of age are hospitalized each year in California because of influenza (“the flu”). Women who get infected with influenza while they are pregnant are themselves at increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from the flu, and their babies are more likely to be born early, have low birth weight, and be admitted to the newborn intensive care unit.
What Can You Do? Help Protect Your Baby from the Start!
Getting flu and whooping cough shots (vaccines) while you are pregnant passes some of the protection (antibodies) to your baby in the womb. This can help protect your baby against these infections until they are old enough to get vaccinated themselves. Vaccinating people around a young baby (“cocooning”) also protects them from being exposed to infection.
- Ask your health care provider if they have Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and flu vaccines or where you can get them.
- Pregnant women should get the whooping cough shot (Tdap) as early as possible during the third trimester (between week 27 to 36) of every pregnancy, even if you got it before this pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife about Tdap. See “Pregnant? Top 3 Reasons Why You Need the Tdap Vaccine.”
- Pregnant women should also get vaccinated against influenza every year, preferably by late October. See “Pregnant? Top 3 Reasons Why You Need the Flu Vaccine.”
- Everyone in contact with your baby should be vaccinated against whooping cough. Adults and adolescents should get Tdap if they have not already. Children should be up-to-date on their pertussis vaccinations.
- Everyone 6 months of age and older who is around your baby should get vaccinated against influenza every year.
Prenatal immunization is covered by Medi-Cal and private health plans. For more information about immunization during pregnancy, visit the Orange County Health Care Agency website or call 1-800-564-8448. For more information about influenza vaccine, visit the Orange County Health Care Agency Flu page.