A two-month-old baby from the Jerusalem area died of whooping cough (pertussis) a week ago after becoming ill at the age of five weeks – about a week before the earliest age of two months at which he could have received the vaccine. An epidemiological investigation revealed that the baby’s mother was not vaccinated during the last three months of her pregnancy, even though this is highly recommended by doctors and would almost surely have prevented him from being infected.
The Health Ministry, which announced this on Friday, said the case was reported to the Jerusalem district health Office.
Pertussis infection, better known as whooping cough, is high mainly in densely populated areas with low rates of receiving routine vaccinations, where the most significant cases of infection and most hospitalizations are among unvaccinated babies younger than six months old. The vast majority of whooping cough cases are among ultra-Orthodox (haredi) population who for some reason are reluctant to go for immunization during pregnancy and soon after the infant is born.
Why is it important for pregnant women to get the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy?
When the pregnant woman is vaccinated, the resulting antibodies move via the placenta to the fetus she is carrying, thus providing the newborn infant with 90% protection before it gets the first shot after birth. In over half of the cases, pertussis is transferred from a parent to the newborn, so a shot during pregnancy prevents the mother from transmitting the disease to the infant. The completely safe pertussis shot given to pregnant women is a combined vaccine called Tdap and also includes protection against tetanus and diphtheria.
Vaccinating siblings in second and eighth grades provides additional protection to family members, and helps prevent transmission of the disease to infants.
Whooping cough is a dangerous disease, particularly for infants under six months. Complications of this disease are severe, and include eight loss, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. More than a third of infants under the age of one year who become ill are hospitalized due to the disease, some in intensive care units.
Vaccination provides the best protection against this disease, and immunity develops gradually after receiving the vaccine dose. Booster shots are given at four, six and 12 months for full immunity to develop.
The ministry said that there was a 12-fold rise of pertussis of whooping cough cases last year (over 200 cases) compared to the same period in 2022 (17).