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Plan to Prevent Infant Pertussis for Prenatal Care Providers

January 20, 2017

In California from 2014 – 2015, 616 infants under 3 months of age fell ill with pertussis (whooping cough) and four died from this vaccine-preventable illness. The best practice to protect infants too young to be vaccinated is a Tdap vaccination for the mother at the earliest opportunity between 27 – 36 weeks gestation of every pregnancy. Pertussis incidence peaks every three to five years. Prenatal care providers should act now to protect infants before the next epidemic peak is expected in 2017 – 2019.

In response to California’s second pertussis infant death in 2016, Karen Smith, MD, MPH, California Department of Public Health Director, and Neal Kohatsu, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the California Department of Health Care Services, released a letter titled “Implement Prenatal Tdap Program to Prevent Infant Pertussis in California” published under Information for Health Professional on the Pertussis page of the California Department of Public Health website. The letter urges all prenatal care providers to implement a strong plan ensuring women are immunized at the earliest opportunity between 27 – 36 weeks gestation of every pregnancy. This guidance is in line with current Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendations and existing Medi-Cal policy.

Included in this letter is detailed guidance for providers who vaccinate on-site as well as for those referring patients to off-site vaccination. Prenatal care providers are urged to provide a strong recommendation to their patients to receive Tdap and document receipt of vaccination (or refusal) in their chart. Providers who must refer a patient for vaccination off-site should assist in locating local immunization providers and clinics covered by the patient’s insurance and follow up in subsequent visits to ensure patients received the vaccine.

The Prenatal Tdap Immunization Resources for Prenatal Care Providers flyer contains more resources and information for your practice.