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As Pertussis Cases Climb, Survey Shows Most Parents With Young Children Overlook Vital Precaution That Helps Protect Babies

Nearly three-quarters of parents ask caregivers to use approved car safety seats and wash/sanitize their hands, yet fewer than one-fifth ask them to get an adult pertussis vaccine

SWIFTWATER, Pa. and WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., June 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As health departments across the country report record numbers of pertussis cases, the results of a new survey of American adults released today reveal that most parents aren't asking adults close to their infants and young children to get an adult pertussis booster vaccine, yet they do ask them to follow other basic precautions to safeguard their children's health. The survey was conducted online in May 2012 by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Sounds of Pertussis® Campaign, a joint initiative from Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes.[1]

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The results spotlight that most parents are skipping a critical preventive health step for themselves and their babies, and it's not because they don't think it's important. A large majority of parents with children aged 2 years and younger - 83 percent - believe that vaccination is important for adults in contact with infants and young children to help protect against the spread of pertussis. Yet, only 19 percent reported asking friends and family in close contact with their child to get an adult pertussis vaccination. Although 90 percent agreed that the health of family/friends/caregivers is an important consideration in order to keep their child healthy and safe, 45 percent estimated that fewer than half of the adults who come into close contact with their child had received an adult pertussis vaccination, and 26 percent weren't sure if anyone had been vaccinated.[1]

In fact, only about 10 percent of adults have reported receiving an adult pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[2] So, while parents should be proactive about knowing the pertussis vaccination status of those in contact with their infants, and asking them to get a booster if they haven't already, making that simple request makes many parents uncomfortable. More than half (61 percent) of parents with children aged 2 years and younger said they would feel awkward asking a family member/caregiver to get an adult pertussis vaccine.[1]  

In contrast, these same parents are strongly committed to asking friends and family to take other important safety measures when it comes to their child. By and large, they would ask adults/caregivers in contact with their young children to wash their hands before cuddling or handling their children (71 percent) and use only approved car safety seats (71 percent) before driving with their infant.[1] 

"This survey shows we've come a long way in raising awareness of the importance of adult pertussis vaccination, yet too many parents still aren't taking crucial steps to help protect their babies against the dangers of pertussis in the same way they proactively shield them from other serious dangers," said four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon who, along with his wife, model Ingrid Vandebosch, are spokespeople for the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign. "As parents of two, Ingrid and I asked our friends and family to join us in getting an adult pertussis vaccine to help protect our kids against the disease, and we are urging others across the country to do the same."

Communicating about Adult Pertussis Booster Immunization is Key

"Your friends and family have the best intentions to help protect your newborn baby. While you may feel hesitant to ask them about getting a pertussis booster, simply go ahead and ask. You'll be doing them a favor while helping to protect your baby at the same time," said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, associate professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women's Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center and medical advisor to March of Dimes. "Research has shown that when the source of a baby's pertussis can be identified, it's traced back to family members in up to 80 percent of cases.[3,4] That's why it's so important for adult Tdap booster vaccination to become as routine a precaution as car seats and handwashing."

The survey also looked at how influential family members and health-care professionals can be in encouraging adults to get a pertussis booster. Among adults who haven't been vaccinated and don't have children at home, but who have been in contact with infants under 2 years old in the past five years or expect to be in the next year, nearly half (45 percent) would consider getting an adult Tdap booster vaccine if a family member asked, and an even greater number, 83 percent would consider getting one if they were asked by their doctor or other health-care professional.[1] "The survey results reinforce the essential role that health-care professionals play in guiding adults to follow the CDC recommendations and get their Tdap boosters," added Dr. Dolan. 

Young babies are particularly vulnerable because they don't begin receiving their own immunizations against pertussis until they are 2 months old and may not be protected until they've had at least three doses of the infant DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccine.[5] 

Immunity from childhood pertussis vaccinations wears off after about five to 10 years, so even adults immunized as children may no longer be protected and should have an adult Tdap booster, especially if they will be in contact with babies.[6]     

Pertussis: Still a Threat and on the Rise

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that is spread through the air by infectious respiratory droplets. It is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis, which is found in the mouth, nose and throat of the person infected with the disease. The milder form of the disease, which usually occurs in adults and older children, is often mistaken for the common cold or bronchitis and can be easily spread. The disease is usually more severe in babies and young children, who will often experience severe coughing that can be followed by a "whooping" sound as they gasp for air. Oftentimes, coughing episodes can be so intense that vomiting follows.[7,8] Pertussis also can lead to other serious complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalizations and even death.[9] In recent years, about 92 percent of pertussis deaths have occurred in infants younger than 12 months of age.[6]

Across the United States, 8,159 provisional pertussis cases have been reported to the CDC as of May 5, 2012, representing an 87 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2011.[10,11] Pertussis cases reached epidemic levels in Washington state this year,[12] and cases are trending high in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.[11]

About the Survey Methodology

The Stop the Spread survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur from May 9-11 and May 11-15, 2012 among 4,247 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 237 were parents of children aged 2 and under. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About the Sounds of Pertussis

Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes are working together on the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign to help protect the health and wellness of adults and infants. The mission is to raise awareness about pertussis and to let parents, grandparents, caregivers and others in close contact with infants know how important it is to get vaccinated with an adult Tdap vaccine. Now in its fourth year, the Campaign sponsors creative, informative programs to educate the public about this serious disease.

At the heart of the Campaign is the Sounds of Pertussis public service announcement (PSA) featuring Jeff Gordon. The PSA utilizes the sound of a race car travelling more than 100 miles per hour as an analogy to illustrate how breath expelled by a child coughing could achieve the same speed. In the PSA, Gordon reminds parents about the dangers of pertussis and urges them to take the appropriate steps to help protect themselves and their families.

For additional information about pertussis and immunization, and the relationship between Sanofi Pasteur and the March of Dimes, please visit March of Dimes does not endorse specific products or brands.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes is the leading organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and through its premier event, March for Babies, March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit or

About Sanofi

Sanofi, a global and diversified healthcare leader, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients' needs. Sanofi has core strengths in the field of healthcare with seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, animal health and the new Genzyme. Sanofi is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, provides more than 1 billion doses of vaccine each year, making it possible to immunize more than 500 million people across the globe. A world leader in the vaccine industry, Sanofi Pasteur offers the broadest range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious diseases. The company's heritage, to create vaccines that protect life, dates back more than a century. Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company entirely dedicated to vaccines. Every day, the company invests more than EUR 1 million in research and development. For more information, please visit: or

For Sanofi Pasteur
 For March of Dimes
U.S. Media Relations*
 U.S. Media Relations
Lise Geduldig
 Todd Dezen
T. +1-570-957-0717
 T. +1-914-997-4608

*Contact for complete survey methodology, including weighting variables.

1.    Online survey of 4,247 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 237 were parents of children aged 2 and under, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Sounds of Pertussis®, May 9-11 and May 11-15, 2012.
2.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adult Vaccination Coverage — United States, 2010. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012;61(04);66-72. Accessed June 5, 2012.
3.    Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23(11):985-9.
4.    Wendelboe AM, Njamkempo E, Bourillon A et al. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis to young infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007;26(4):293-9.
5.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Prevention. Accessed June 5, 2012.
6.    Kretsinger K, Broder KR, Cortese MM et al. Preventing tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis among adults: use of tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and recommendation of ACIP, supported by the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), for use of Tdap among health-care personnel. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2006;55(RR-17):1-37. Accessed June 5, 2012.
7.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Causes & Transmission. Accessed June 5, 2012.
8.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Signs & Symptoms. Accessed June 5, 2012.
9.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease Information: Pertussis: Complications. Accessed June 5, 2012.
10.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Violence-Related Firearm Deaths Among Residents of Metropolitan Areas and Cities — United States, 2006–2007. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011;60(18):597. Accessed June 5, 2012.
11.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sunburn and Sun Protective Behaviors Among Adults Aged 18–29 Years—United States, 2000–2010. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012; 61(18):ND-249. Accessed June 5, 2012.
12.  Washington State Department of Health. News Release: Whooping cough cases reach epidemic levels in much of Washington, April 3, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2012.

SOURCE Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes

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Posted: June 2012