Vaccination

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.

THE HERD

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…

Vaccinating pregnant women protects newborns from whooping cough

pregnant woman getting a vaccine
A Tdap vaccine during pregnancy led to fewer newborns getting whooping cough in the two months after birth, a large study found.

When I was pregnant, my pronoun shifted automatically. My “I” turned into “we,” as in, “What are we going to eat for dinner?” and, “Should we sit in that hot tub?” I thought about that shift to the majestic plural as we got our Tdap shot in our third trimester.

The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough. Doctors recommend that women receive a dose with each pregnancy because the diseases can be particularly dangerous for young babies. But good, hard evidence for the benefits of vaccinating women while pregnant instead of shortly after giving birth has been lacking. A new study of nearly 150,000 newborns fills that gap for whooping cough.

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif., studied the medical records of mothers who gave birth to babies between 2010 and 2015. Overall, about 46 percent of the mothers received a Tdap vaccine at least 8 days before giving birth.

Seventeen of the 150,000 babies got whooping cough by the time…

Vaccinating pregnant women protects newborns from whooping cough

pregnant woman getting a vaccine
A Tdap vaccine during pregnancy led to fewer newborns getting whooping cough in the two months after birth, a large study found.

When I was pregnant, my pronoun shifted automatically. My “I” turned into “we,” as in, “What are we going to eat for dinner?” and, “Should we sit in that hot tub?” I thought about that shift to the majestic plural as we got our Tdap shot in our third trimester.

The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough. Doctors recommend that women receive a dose with each pregnancy because the diseases can be particularly dangerous for young babies. But good, hard evidence for the benefits of vaccinating women while pregnant instead of shortly after giving birth has been lacking. A new study of nearly 150,000 newborns fills that gap for whooping cough.

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, Calif., studied the medical records of mothers who gave birth to babies between 2010 and 2015. Overall, about 46 percent of the mothers received a Tdap vaccine at least 8 days before giving birth.

Seventeen of the 150,000 babies got whooping cough by the time…

Why Is Measles Surging Across Europe?

In 2000, health officials announced that measles has been eliminated from the Americas, thanks to the measles vaccine and a strong vaccination program. (We still see some cases of measles, but they’re imported. More on that below.) But as BBC News reports, the highly contagious disease is still on the rise in multiple European countries due to low immunization coverage.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were more than 500 reported measles cases in Europe in January 2017—and the number of new infections keeps on climbing. (To give this figure some perspective, there were 21 reported measles cases in the U.S. from January 1 to February 25, 2017.) The majority of these cases came from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, and Ukraine—all countries in which experts estimate that less than 95 percent of the population has received the second dose of the two-dose measles vaccine. Around 95 percent of people need to be vaccinated to protect the entire population from the disease.

Romania and…

No Vaccination? No Daycare, Say Australian Legislators

Article Image

A children’s doctor injects a vaccine against measles, rubella, mumps and chicken pox to an infant on February 26, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Australia might soon ban unvaccinated children from attending preschools and daycare. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull didn’t mince words on the proposed law, dubbed “No Jab, No Play.”

“This is not a theoretical exercise – this is life and death,” he said. “If a parent says ‘I’m not going to vaccinate my child’, they’re not simply putting their child at risk, they’re putting everybody else’s children at risk too.”

Australia has been moving toward stricter vaccination laws for years. In 2015, the federal government stripped welfare and tax benefits from parents of unvaccinated children, a move that led to an increase of about 200,000 child vaccinations.

Vaccination laws that restrict unvaccinated children from attending schools already exist in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. But Turnbull and the Australian Medical Association want to enforce them nationwide.

“If you, as a parent, expect the community to support you by either welfare payments or access to care, then you need to do your bit to contribute to that community by protecting other children,” Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association, told Fairfax Media.

Still, some think Australia’s this strong-arm legislation could empower the anti-vaccination movement.

“People without any previous interest in vaccination may defend anti-vaccination activists and join their cause because they are concerned about the threat to civil liberties,” said Julie Leask, a professor and researcher at the University of Sydney.

Like in the U.S., there’s a small but loud movement of anti-vaccination Australians (or “vaccination skeptics“) who believe vaccines cause autism and other medical problems – despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe. These beliefs can permeate entire communities and facilitate outbreaks of Victorian-era diseases.

Anti-vaxxer protest

(Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM)

One anti-vaccination mother living in a suburb outside of Sydney recently proposed starting a daycare center for unvaccinated children.

“Many families are concerned about vaccinating. Yes it’s in response to No Jab No Play,” the post read. Alarmingly, some were supportive of the idea, suggesting they open similar daycares in nearby cities.

Such a move could put whole communities at risk by weakening herd immunity.

Herd immunity is all about strength in numbers. Society becomes protected from outbreaks when enough people are…