Public Health Urges Prenatal Immunization to Combat Pertussis Risk

SACRAMENTO – California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State
Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today warned parents about the continued dangers of
pertussis (whooping cough). The disease has already caused one infant death and at
least 126 infant hospitalizations in California this year.
“Vaccinated mothers pass protective antibodies to their infants during pregnancy,” said
Dr. Smith. “Right now, it’s estimated that fewer than half of all pregnant women in
California are vaccinated against whooping cough. We need to increase that number to
help improve the health of our children and of our communities.”
CDPH urges expecting mothers to receive a pertussis vaccine (called Tdap because it
covers tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Prenatal vaccination will help protect
newborn children until they are old enough to receive their own vaccination against
pertussis. Because immunity decreases over time, women should receive the pertussis
vaccine in the last trimester of each pregnancy.
Pertussis continues to spread at above-normal levels in California following a major
epidemic in 2014, when reported disease rates were the highest seen since the 1950’s.
Disease rates and risks of hospitalization and death are highest for infants under the
age of one.
Pertussis can cause a severe, persistent cough. Historically, unvaccinated children with
pertussis would cough hard enough to cause vomiting or a “whooping” breath after a
coughing spell.
Symptoms of pertussis vary widely by age and vaccination history. Young infants may
not have typical pertussis symptoms and may not appear to cough. Instead, they may
have difficulty breathing, episodes in which they stop breathing, or their faces turn
CDPH is working closely with local health departments, schools, media outlets and
other partners to inform providers and the public about the importance of vaccination
against pertussis, especially for pregnant women during the third trimester of every
pregnancy. CDPH also reminds parents that Tdap vaccination is a requirement for
advancement into the 7th grade.
Pertussis data, including the number of cases in each county, can be found on
the CDPH website.


Anita Gore
Orville Thomas

(916) 440-7259

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