By a vote of 72-0-2, the full Assembly on Thursday approved bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help protect newborns from the sometimes fatal disease pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and often causes uncontrollable, violent coughing, making it hard to breathe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.
"By inoculating mothers and all other adult family members who may come into contact with infants, we can help reduce pertussis cases in infants less than three months old by up to 70 percent," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "It's important that we inform parents of this option because this simple practice can help save lives."
Lampitt noted that since 2005, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the CDC has recommended the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster vaccine to unvaccinated mothers of newborn infants and other adult family members before the infant's birth or mother's discharge from the hospital.
"Knowledge is often the best defense," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Many women may not even know this vaccine is available for their newborns to help ward off this dangerous and potentially fatal disease. This will empower them to decide if this choice is right for their child."
The bill (A-3978) would direct the Department of Health (DOH) to prepare and make available informational literature on the pertussis vaccine for adults, including, but not limited to, information on the risks of pertussis, the morbidity and mortality rates among infants suffering from pertussis, the availability and efficacy of the Tdap booster vaccine, and the benefits of inoculating pregnant women, a new mother, and other adult family members, with the booster vaccine, prior to an infant's birth or the mother's discharge from a hospital or birthing facility, to prevent the transmission of pertussis to the infant.
The bill would require each hospital and birthing facility in the state to distribute the informational literature to the mother, both birth mothers and/or adoptive mothers, and any other family member present at the infant's birth, by staff designated by the hospital or birthing facility, prior to the mother's discharge, as part of the hospital or birthing facility's discharge procedures.
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.