Evidence is lacking that ‘cocooning’ prevents whooping cough in newborns

family visiting newborn baby
The cocooning strategy, in which people who will be in contact with a newborn all receive vaccinations to protect the vulnerable baby, may not be that protective after all. Better protection against whooping cough comes from vaccinating a mother during pregnancy, scientists say.


Last week, I wrote about how powerfully protective whooping cough vaccines can be when babies receive their first dose before even being born, from their pregnant mothers-to-be. As I was looking through that study, another of its findings struck me: Babies didn’t seem to get any extra whooping cough protection when their moms were vaccinated after giving birth.

I wondered if this meant that I was unreasonable when I insisted my parents be fully boosted before visiting their first granddaughter. If post-birth vaccinations aren’t that important for mothers, who are entwined in every way imaginable with their newborns, is it likely that grandparents’ vaccination status is all that important?

The practice of making sure people who come into contact with a vulnerable newborn are up on their shots is called “cocooning.” The idea is based on straight-ahead logic: By eliminating dangerous germs from those people, the newborn is protected. She can’t catch what isn’t there.

While it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is current on vaccines, the evidence for cocooning as a way to keep infants healthy has been lacking. “I…