ACIP’s New Recommendation Regarding Pertussis Vaccine and Pregnant Women
Oct 31, 2012

As a parent, it’s reassuring to know that there is a committee of experts who meet regularly to develop specific vaccine recommendations.  That’s right – experts.  Experts in vaccinology, immunology, pediatrics, internal medicine, nursing, family medicine, virology, public health, infectious diseases, and preventive medicine.  Experts whom I personally trust a great deal more than the random people who often offer advice as a part of many online parenting forums.

This committee, known as the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices (ACIP), meets three times a year to discuss vaccine research and scientific data related to vaccine effectiveness and safety.  They also review outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease and changes in vaccine supply in order to make recommendations as to how vaccines can be used to control diseases in the United States.

Considering that there are currently many pertussis outbreaks threatening the health of all people in this country, one of the first topics of discussion during the ACIP’s most recent meeting last week included a comprehensive update on the epidemiology of pertussis here in the United States.  Following the report, there was extensive discussion regarding the rationale for vaccinating pregnant women with Tdap in an effort to cocoon children too young to be vaccinated.  In conclusion, the ACIP shared several considerations as well as a new Tdap recommendation for pregnant women as follows:

ACIP Guidance for Tdap in pregnant women

  • Tdap is very safe in all trimesters and can be given at any time during pregnancy.
  • Optimal timing for Tdap administration is between 27 and 36 weeks gestation to maximize the maternal antibody response and passive transfer to the infant.

New Recommendation for Tdap in Pregnant women
It was decided that women should be vaccinated with Tdap during each pregnancy, irrespective of their prior history for receiving Tdap. If Tdap is not administered during pregnancy, than the booster should be administered postpartum.

It’s important to note that in addition to the 15 voting members, the ACIP also includes 8 other members who represent various federal agencies that have a responsibility for immunization programs in the U.S., along with 30 non-voting representatives of liaison organizations that bring related immunization expertise.   All members and representatives who serve on the Committee do so voluntarily and that throughout the year, ACIP members participate in special work groups to stay up –to-date on specific vaccines and vaccine safety information. Additional, ACIP meetings are open to the public and available online via webcast so that anyone who may be interested can gain insight into how these recommendations are made.

While this new recommendation has been getting some attention in the news, we can each do our part to share this important information with our friends and family.  Many expectant parents may not be aware of these very recent updates and how it differs from the previous recommendation made by ACIP in June 2011 that suggested that Tdap should be administered during pregnancy “only to women who have not previously received Tdap.”  However, the work group assigned to this matter concluded that Tdap maternal pertussis antibodies would wane greatly between subsequent pregnancies, and that a single Tdap dose during one pregnancy was not sufficient to provide adequate protection for subsequent pregnancies.  Therefore, we hope that expectant women will seriously consider the new ACIP recommendations made by 15 medical and public health experts who serve on the ACIP.  You can help spread the word by sending these simple to e-cards, available to you from the CDC.

If you have questions regarding the role of the ACIP and any of their most recent recommendations, let us know at You can also learn more on our Vaccinate Your Family website.


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