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Government Okays Untested Vaccine for Pregnant Women

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I usually don't get all worked up over vaccine issues. I calmly promote the idea of alternative vaccine schedules and I like to help parents make educated decisions. But when I see the government try to do something really stupid, I get mad. And right now I am really angry. The last time I got mad was when the government decided it was OK to give pregnant women mercury-containing H1N1 flu vaccines.

A pharmaceutical rep just came into my office and handed me a letter stating that the California Department of Public Health has advised all Californian women of childbearing age get the Tdap vaccine. They state "preferably before pregnancy, but otherwise during or after pregnancy."

Now I can understand and applaud their zeal in wanting to combat the pertussis epidemic. Pertussis is dangerous for young infants. Usually about 20 infants die each year from pertussis, and this year we are headed for about 30 or 40. Making sure new moms and dads have some pertussis protection makes sense.

On the other hand, the Tdap (or ANY pertussis vaccine for that matter) has NEVER been tested for safety during pregnancy. The vaccine product insert, as well as the letter I got from the pharmaceutical company, states very clearly that the vaccine is not indicated for pregnant women and has never been tested.

So what right does the California Department of Public Health have to allow the use of an untested vaccine in pregnant women? I suppose they have every right. But it just doesn't feel right to me. New moms can get the vaccine right after their baby is born. Dads can get it during the pregnancy to get a head start. If the vaccine works so well, that should be good enough. Women don't need to get it during pregnancy.

At least there's no mercury in the Tdap vaccine! But still, we have absolutely NO indication that this vaccine is safe during pregnancy. Parents beware.

Dr. Bob Sears
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