Should You Have the Whooping Cough Vaccine During Pregnancy?



Whooping cough is on the rise in the United States, with about 32,000 cases reported last year. Of those, 16 people died. There’s been a vaccine in place for whooping cough for quite a while and, while incidences are lower than they were half a century ago these numbers represent an increase.

One of the natural questions a woman has during pregnancy is whether or not she should be vaccinated against specific illnesses like whooping cough. There have been a number of concerns raised about vaccines in general, and whether they’re safe during pregnancy. Of particular concern has been the worry that vaccines might be related to autism.

Let’s take a look at what we actually know about the whooping cough vaccine and pregnancy:

  • The whooping cough vaccine has been around for a long time. The version used today is acellular, which reduces the risks that may be associated with the former version of the vaccine.
  • Some people claim that vaccines increase risks of autism. At this point, there is no scientific evidence that backs up this claim.
  • The risk of dying from whooping cough and thereby causing your pregnancy to terminate is usually considered greater than the risks associated with having the vaccine.
  • The whooping cough vaccine is recommended to all pregnant women. This is the only vaccine – apart from the influenza vaccine – that has specifically been recommended to pregnant women.
  • When a mother is at increased risk of coming down with whooping cough, her baby is at a much greater risk of miscarriage or of getting a very serious infection.
  • The people most at risk for complications from whooping cough include children of school age and adults who have never received the vaccine, as well as adults that are at a risk of complications due to whooping cough because of other health concerns.
  • It is hoped that the whooping cough vaccine will eventually lead to a “herd immunity” where around 80% of the population has received the vaccine and the disease is, for all practical purposes, wiped out.
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