Protection even before the first breath - information campaign on whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy has started
- Whooping cough is a great danger, especially for premature babies and newborns, as they have no nest protection against the disease.
- Vaccination of the mother from the 28th week of pregnancy can protect the newborn from whooping cough right from birth.
- The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) has started a Germany-wide information campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of whooping cough for babies and preventive measures. The campaign is supported by specialist societies and GlaxoSmithKline.
Whooping cough can be a major health hazard, especially for premature babies and newborns, and can quickly become life-threatening. Since the disease is usually atypical in babies, it is often difficult to recognize it as such. Since spring 2020, the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has recommended as a protective measure that pregnant women should be vaccinated against whooping cough at the beginning of the third trimester, i.e. from the 28th week of pregnancy. If there is a risk of premature birth, the vaccination should take place in the second trimester. When the mother is vaccinated, the protective antibodies are transferred to the unborn child and create a nest protection that works from birth. The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) is launching an information campaign under the motto “Protection even before the first breath” to educate families and medical professionals about the dangers of whooping cough for premature and newborn babies and about prevention options. The campaign runs in cooperation with medical societies and is supported by GlaxoSmithKline.
Whooping cough - one of the six most common infectious diseases in Germany
Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is caused by the bacterium Bortadella pertussis and is transmitted by droplet infection. It is so contagious that almost every contact with a sick person leads to infection. An illness can last for weeks or even months and typically has three stages, during which a runny nose and cough steadily worsen before the symptoms subside. In the most intense phase of the disease, the convulsive stage, the typical eponymous wheezing inhalation often occurs because the coughing fits are so strong and stressful. Whooping cough occurs year round and worldwide.
Whooping cough is a health hazard for premature and newborn babies and can even be potentially life-threatening. They also have a significantly higher risk of further complications. In addition, whooping cough in babies is usually atypical - instead of the never-ending coughing attacks, the symptoms in babies are often more subtle and therefore more difficult to recognize. Breathing pauses and respiratory arrests often occur in premature and newborn babies. Hospitalization is often required, especially for infants, due to the severity of the disease. Since whooping cough is not always diagnosed immediately, sick people can already be ignorant of carriers.
A vaccination can protect against whooping cough
A vaccination against whooping cough offers protection against the disease. It reduces the risk of developing whooping cough in the first place and prevents severe courses and complications. However, newborns can only be vaccinated from the 3rd month of life and since the vaccination takes place in several steps, it still takes a few months until a complete basic immunization is achieved. It is therefore important to be aware that premature babies and newborns do not initially have any vaccination protection, although they belong to the most vulnerable group and are at the highest risk of severe disease and complications.
As a rule, babies are not given natural nest protection. In order to protect them from whooping cough despite this, the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has recommended since spring 2020 that pregnant women should be vaccinated against whooping cough in the last trimester from the 28th week of pregnancy - if there is a risk of premature birth in the 2nd trimester 1 , 2,3,4. This should happen in every pregnancy and regardless of previous vaccinations. Studies have shown that this is the best time to set up nest protection. Antibodies against whooping cough are transferred from the mother to the child via the umbilical cord during pregnancy. When the child is born, it is already protected against whooping cough by the nest protection until it can be actively protected by its own vaccination from the 3rd month of life. This gap in protection between birth and the basic immunization of the infant can be closed by vaccination during pregnancy.
Scientific studies show that vaccinating the mother during pregnancy can prevent between 69 percent and 93 percent of whooping cough in newborns 2 . Up to 95 percent of deaths can also be prevented 5 . In addition, studies from the USA show that infants whose mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy need to be hospitalized or treated in the intensive care unit significantly less often than infants whose mothers were not vaccinated 4 .
The STIKO recommendation therefore explicitly states that the pregnant woman should be vaccinated against whooping cough in every pregnancy regardless of the date of the last vaccination. This is the only way to ensure that there are enough antibodies in the mother's blood if the transmission to the child also takes place. Studies have repeatedly shown that multiple vaccinations against whooping cough do not pose an increased health risk, even at shorter intervals. Since the vaccination is officially recommended by the STIKO, the statutory health insurance companies cover the costs.
Silke Mader, chairwoman of the EFCNI Foundation, also emphasizes how important this topic is: “Whooping cough is a serious disease that can be particularly dangerous for premature babies and newborns. I therefore very much welcome the fact that the STIKO has adjusted its vaccination recommendation with regard to whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy. With our campaign 'Protection even before the first breath', we want to make a contribution to education so that pregnant women can make the best decision for them in a well-informed manner. "
Protection even before the first breath
In order to draw attention to this important prevention topic , the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI)decided to start an information campaign under the motto "Protection even before the first breath". In close cooperation with scientific societies and with the support of the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, a Germany-wide awareness campaign began at the beginning of April with the aim of educating both pregnant women and medical professionals about the dangers of whooping cough, especially for premature and newborn babies. Families should be encouraged to inform themselves and, together with their doctors, to make the best individual decision for them in order to protect themselves against whooping cough. In addition to an information flyer, interviews with various experts, parents-to-be and interested parties will also offer a wide range of independent information.
You can also find more information about the campaign here: https://www.efcni.org/activities/campaigns/keuchhusten/
The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) is the first Europe-wide organization and network to represent the interests of premature and newborn babies and their families. It brings parents and specialists from various medical and scientific disciplines together with the common goal of improving the health of premature and newborn babies in the long term. EFCNI's vision is to give every child the best start in life.
The foundation is supported by GE Healthcare, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé Nutrition Institute, Sanofi Pasteur, Prolacta, Philips, Takeda, DSM, Novartis and other private companies as well as individual donors. In addition, EFCNI receives funding from the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020. For more information, visit : www.efcni.org .