Introduction: Infants too young to be fully immunized are the most vulnerable to severe pertussis disease. To close this susceptibility gap, passive infant immunization through vaccination of pregnant women against pertussis was first introduced in 2011 in the United States and has been extended since then to more than 40 countries. Areas covered: We conducted two systematic literature searches to describe the worldwide burden of pertussis disease in infants <6 months of age since 2005, and the effectiveness and impact of maternal pertussis vaccination in preventing infant pertussis since 2011. Expert opinion: Pertussis disease incidence rates in infants aged <2-3 months were substantial in all countries with available data, exceeding 1000 cases per 100,000 population during outbreaks. Virtually all pertussis deaths occurred in this age group. Data from Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, and Asia were limited, but suggest a similar or higher disease burden than in Europe or the Americas. Estimates of effectiveness of second/third trimester pertussis vaccination in preventing pertussis disease in <2-3 months old infants were consistently high (69%–93%) across the observational studies reviewed, conducted in various settings with different designs. Maternal vaccination programs appear to be achieving their goal of reducing the burden of disease in very young infants. What is the context?: Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract. Infants too young to be fully vaccinated are at the highest risk of severe pertussis disease, hospitalization, and death. Vaccinating pregnant women against pertussis with a Tdap vaccine is recommended in more than 40 countries as a safe and effective strategy to protect infants for the first months of life. What is new?: This review summarizes recent literature describing the burden of pertussis disease in infants worldwide prior to the introduction of maternal vaccination programs; pertussis disease incidence rates in infants aged <2-3 months were substantial in all countries with available data, exceeding 1000 cases per 100,000 population during outbreaks. Immunization of pregnant women with a Tdap vaccine can prevent about 70–90% of pertussis disease and up to 90.5% of pertussis hospitalizations in infants under 3 months of age. What is the impact?: Limited available data suggest that incidence rates of pertussis disease after the introduction of Tdap maternal immunization have declined in infants. Current knowledge supports the implementation of Tdap maternal immunization programs.
- Pregnant women