Should You Get the Whooping Cough Vaccine to Protect Your Baby?

Pregnant Woman getting Vaccination
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If you're currently pregnant, the new mother of a baby, or a caregiver to a new baby, you may have heard of the whooping cough vaccine, also known as the pertussis vaccine. 

The vaccine is designed to help prevent against catching whooping cough (pertussis), spreading disease, and to help lower complications or the severity of the disease. And because whooping cough is especially dangerous to babies and babies cannot get the vaccine, there is a large push from the medical community to ensure that anyone who cares for or comes in regular contact with babies receives the vaccine.


Whooping cough is very serious and you may have even watched a viral video of a mother who refused the whooping cough vaccine that was released on Facebook and the dire consequences her decision had on her baby. Because she was a "fit" and "healthy" women, the mother admitted that she wanted nothing to do with the vaccine and ended up passing on whooping cough to her newborn daughter. Her baby spent more than three weeks in the NICU and the mother shared her story to help encourage other parents to get vaccinated against the disease. 

If you've watched the video or heard about the vaccine, you may have wondered if you need the whooping cough vaccine to protect your baby. Here's what you need to know. 

How You Can Pass Whooping Cough On to Your Baby

Whooping cough is especially dangerous to newborns for two reasons. First, their bodies aren't capable of making enough antibodies against the disease (this is why newborns aren't able to vaccinated against whooping cough).

Second, the disease is very serious in babies, leading to respiratory issues and even death. 

Most babies who contract whooping cough, also known as pertussis, actually get the disease from their caregiver, like a parent, grandparent, or babysitter. An adult may show only mild symptoms of the whooping cough, but pass the disease onto a baby without even realizing it.

An adult can even have whooping cough and not show any symptoms for it, but still be able pass it on to a baby, which is why it's so important for all adults who come into regular contact with the baby to get vaccinated. 

The Dangers of Whooping Cough To Babies

Despite what many people think, whooping cough is not just a minor cold. The CDC explains that about half of all babies under one year who get whooping cough will need to be hospitalized and can experience complications such as:

  • Pneumonia 
  • Convulsions
  • Apnea (periods of time when they stop breathing)
  • encephalopathy, a disease of the brain
  • And a small percentage--only one percent--will die from whooping cough

Should You Get Vaccinated?

It's best to get vaccinated while you are pregnant so that you can pass some antibodies onto your baby and prevent passing whooping cough onto your baby during their most vulnerable few weeks. The old guidelines for whooping cough said that pregnant moms only need the whooping cough vaccine, known as the Tdap vaccine, once, but new guidelines by the CDC state that women should get the vaccine with every pregnancy. So even if you have had the vaccine in the past with a prior pregnancy, it's best to get vaccinated again to protect yourself and your baby.

But even if you aren't pregnant, if you have a new baby around or will be around a new baby, you should consider getting vaccinated against whooping cough. As a parent, you can also request that your partner or any other adults caring for, or who will be in regular contact with your baby get vaccinated as well. You can receive the whooping cough vaccine at most walk-in health clinics, your local health department, or by simply scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor. As one mother had to find out the hard way, a whooping cough vaccine is something that is incredibly simple to do in order to protect a baby.

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