Calif. urgers pertussis vaccination for pregnant women

The state of California and the city and county of San Francisco have recommended a pertussis vaccine for women in their third trimester in light of the recent whooping cough epidemic in the state.

Giving the Tdap booster vaccine during the third trimester, reports, will boost the immunity of a mother in time for delivery. Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Tdap, claims that the vaccine, which does not contain thimerosal, can be safely administered during a pregnancy.

Marin County, which is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, has been disproportionately affected by the whooping cough epidemic, raising fears for infants born in San Francisco. Experts believe that the disproportionate number of infections in Marin County stems from a higher than normal rate of vaccine refusal.

Marin County, with a population of 250,000, has seen 187 cases or pertussis in 2010, reports. Los Angeles County, which carries a population of 10 million, has recorded only 148 pertussis cases this year. Almost one third of all confirmed cases of pertussis in California have been recorded in Marin County.

In addition to rising infection rates, five deaths resulting from whooping cough in infants have been reported this year. Infants, even if vaccinated, do not become fully immune to pertussis until six months of age. Additionally, reports, the smaller airways and weaker immune systems of infants contribute to an increased risk of fatality in children.