AAFP Joins Coalition of Medical Organizations Urging Broader Vaccination to Protect Infants from Pertussis

Monday, March 28, 2011

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6052

LEAWOOD, Kan. — The American Academy of Family Physicians has joined a nationwide effort urging health care providers to encourage patients who have any contact with newborns and infants to get vaccinated for pertussis. The call to action is directed toward several groups that previously had not been recommended for the vaccine in hopes of stemming a nationwide outbreak.

The AAFP joined a coalition of nine nursing, pediatric and physician organizations that released an advisory letter(2 page PDF) to their member health care professionals outlining new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for pertussis immunization. The letter also encourages health care providers to get vaccinated, and to discuss vaccine schedules with their patients.

Pertussis, also known as “whooping cough,” can cause severe illness and even death for infants less than one year old, though the disease can occur in people of all ages. Pertussis outbreaks have been reported in areas across the country as early as 2008, with the most serious epidemic in California. Nearly 9,500 cases of pertussis were reported in California in 2010, the most cases since 1945 and highest incidence (per 100,000) in 52 years, including 10 infant deaths.

Studies show that infants are most likely to contract pertussis from parents, siblings, grandparents or other members of a household.

As a result, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) now is recommending that new demographic groups — adults 65-and-older and children ages 7 to 10 — get the vaccine. The purpose of broadening immunization is to create a protective “cocoon” for newborns and infants, who need time for their own vaccine series to provide protection.

The letter advises health care professionals to be especially mindful about offering the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine to post-partum and breastfeeding women, as well as family members, before the woman’s discharge from the hospital or birthing center.

Other organizations backing the letter’s recommendations include: American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Nurse Midwives; American College of Physicians; American Medical Association; Association of Women’s Health; Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses; National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).