Not Enough Birthing Hospitals Promote Pertussis Vaccine

November 17, 2014

Whooping cough can equal hospitalization for a baby, so why aren't more hospitals promoting Tdap vaccines and offering preventive measures on their websites?

Researchers in Michigan suggest birthing hospitals should be doing more to encourage pregnant women to be vaccinated against pertussis.

An assessment of 85 hospitals in Michigan found that just four had pertussis prevention information displayed on the webpages dedicated to newborns. While more hospitals, 19 in all, had information on the Tdap vaccine they did not include information on how to protect infants.

Key Points:

- Birthing hospitals should do more to support patient education about the benefits of pregnant women receiving the Tdap vaccination.

- Information on pertussis prevention should be easy to find on websites and other patient education materials.

That left most Michigan birthing hospitals with no information on the benefits of vaccinating pregnant women to protect babies from whooping cough.

"Newborns are too young to be vaccinated themselves, and many parents don't realize the importance of Tdap vaccination during pregnancy in protecting their babies from a preventable and potentially deadly disease," said lead author Sarah Clark, MPH, associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics and Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit and associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health, in a news release.

Among the websites that did include information on pertussis, the information was not easy to find. Instead, researchers noted that to successfully navigate to Tdap vaccine information, they had to conduct a specific search for pertussis.

"Rather than burying information about infant pertussis prevention in archived pages, birthing hospitals should identify a prominent location to provide specific information about the importance of Tdap vaccination for pregnant women, family members, and others who will be in close contact with a newborn,” Clark said. “The goal is to reach those who might otherwise not be aware of the need for vaccination."

The CDC recommends pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccination between the 27th and 36th week of each pregnancy. By giving the vaccination to pregnant women, it allows antibodies to be transferred from mom to baby. Vaccinating other family members who will be close to the child, such as the father, further protects the infant, the researchers noted; this additional information also should be provided in patient education efforts.

This study was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.