Need for vaccination against infections

 Human diseases and infections are mostly caused by either bacteria or viruses and most of the infections can be treated with antibiotics and antiviral drugs. However, few bacterial and viral infections can be fatal and deadly if left untreated. For bacterial infections like Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis; antibiotics cannot completely cure or prevent. So, vaccination is the only option to prevent these bacterial infections.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria. This infection causes sore throat, swollen glands in neck, and difficulty in breathing. In advanced stages of Diphtheria, it can damage the kidneys’ function and nervous system.

Tetanus is another serious and fatal bacterial infection called Lockjaw and caused by Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces toxins that affect the nervous system and the brain. Tetanus causes painful muscle contractions in the jaw & neck, abdominal muscle stiffness, rapid heart rate, and painful body spasms that last for several minutes.

Pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory infection, is also known as Whooping cough. This infection causes uncontrollable and violent coughing which makes it difficult for an individual to breathe. Few symptoms of Pertussis are runny nose, sneezing, difficulty in breathing, congestion, fever, vomiting, and watery eyes.

 To prevent these bacterial infections, one should get vaccinated. Four [4] types of vaccines being used these days to protect against these infections are: 

  • Diphtheria and Tetanus [DT] vaccines

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis [DTaP] vaccines

  • Tetanus and Diphtheria [Td] vaccines

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis [Tdap] vaccines

How important is the Tdap vaccine for newborns?

If newborn babies who have Diphtheria or Tetanus or Pertussis are left untreated or are not vaccinated, they may suffer from severe respiratory problems, muscle spasms, heart damage, and even death. Thus, infants require 3 shots of Tdap vaccines to build high levels of protection against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis [whooping cough]. Younger children can get booster shots to maintain protection throughout early childhood. It is best if pregnant mothers get themselves vaccinated during pregnancy for Tdap.

Important Guidelines for PREGNANT MOTHERS about the Tdap Vaccine

  • Pregnant mothers can get a blood test to measure the levels of antibodies present in their body to protect themselves and the child against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis.

  • Getting vaccinated during the postpartum period [from day 1 to 6 weeks of childbirth] is neither recommended nor optimal.

  • Cocooning [vaccinating everyone who is around the child/baby] is difficult and hard to implement since it is costly. 

  • A pregnant mother should get the Tdap Vaccine during the 3rd trimester [between 27 and 36 weeks] of pregnancy.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] recommends pregnant mothers to get a shot of the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy to protect each of the babies from getting the infection. In case the vaccine is administered during preconception, it is advised to get vaccinated again during 27 and 36 weeks of gestation.

  • If there is a community outbreak of pertussis, Tdap can be administered anytime during the pregnancy.

  • If the vaccine is administered during the early stages of pregnancy, it should not be repeated during 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Because only one dose of vaccine is recommended during each pregnancy.

  • If the mother is vaccinated earlier than giving birth to a child, she can transfer the antibodies to the infant/baby through breastfeeding.

  • A minimum of 2 weeks is required for the vaccine to create antibodies in the body of a recipient.

 If you are a pregnant mother and confused about whether to get a Tdap vaccine or not, please consult your physician or gynecologist. However, it is recommended you get a Tdap vaccine during the 3rd trimester [27 to 36 weeks] of pregnancy as it is best for you and your baby.