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Innovative Campaign to Reduce Infant Exposure to Whooping Cough

Armen Hareyan's picture

To help reduce the risk of infants catching whooping cough (pertussis), Advocate Lutheran General Hospital has launched an aggressive education and vaccination campaign targeting parents of every newborn at the hospital along with other adult caregivers who will be near the babies.

All new moms now receive information from Lutheran General mother-baby unit nurses about the importance of getting a Tdap vaccination to help shield their infants from exposure to whooping cough. Licensed in 2005, Tdap is the first vaccine to protect adults and adolescents against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the booster shot is recommended for all adults who have close contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age.

"Because the CDC recommendation is not widely known and this vaccination is so new (Lutheran General received its first supply in November), we wanted to do everything possible to make this important information and vaccination available to all adult caregivers so infants can be protected," said Meg Rowe-Telow, RN, women's and infants' care coordinator, Lutheran General Hospital, who initiated the Tdap awareness campaign.

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Whooping cough is caused by bacteria that is easily spread from person to person. Although pertussis vaccinations are administered in early childhood, they begin to wear off after five to 10 years, leaving preteens, teenagers and adults at risk. Infants usually are exposed to the disease through contact with adult caregivers. Pertussis is especially dangerous for infants since it can cause severe complications including pneumonia, seizures and even death.

At Lutheran General, the Tdap shot is offered to new moms during their hospital stay after they give birth. "We wait until after the baby is delivered because this is a new vaccine. Studies haven't been conducted yet to determine whether it could have a negative effect on the unborn baby," explained Rowe-Telow.

New dads, however, are encouraged to have the shot two weeks before the baby is due since it takes that long to build up immunity. Any other adults who will be near the infant also should be vaccinated including grandparents, siblings, baby-sitters, child care providers and health care workers.

Rowe-Telow believes Lutheran General is the first hospital to introduce a proactive Tdap awareness and vaccination campaign to try to stop the transmission cycle of pertussis from adults to infants. "We're not only targeting new moms, but their family members, too. That