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August 13, 2018

Prenatal whooping cough vaccine does not increase risk of autism, study says

There is no connection between Tdap vaccine and ASD, according to researchers

A prenatal vaccine for whooping cough is not associated with autism spectrum disorder, according to a study of more than 80,000 children born over a four-year period.

Women who received a Tdap vaccination during pregnancy did not heighten the risk of their children being diagnosed with ASD, according to the research conducted by health care provider Kaiser Permanente's Department of Research and Evaluation in Southern California.

The Tdap vaccination – recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – protects against tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis.

Links between vaccination and autism have been refuted by rigorous scientific studies, lead researcher Hung Fu Tseng said.

"Unfortunately, the misconceptions still generate concerns," he said in a statement. "Given the increasing practice to vaccinate pregnant women with Tdap vaccine, it was important to address the concern of a link between maternal vaccination and subsequent development of autism spectrum disorder in children."

Researchers reviewed the records of 81,993 pairs of women and their children who were born between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2014 at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California. They identified children who had been diagnosed with ASD after age 1 through June 30, 2017.

Among the women who received a Tdap vaccination, the ASD incidence rate was 3.78 per 1,000 people. That was slightly lower than the rate in the unvaccinated group, in which children were diagnosed with ASD at rate of 4.05 per 1,000 people.

The CDC recommends pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of each pregnancy. The vaccine provides babies protection against pertussis – better known as whooping cough – until they are old enough to receive their own vaccination at two months old.

Whooping cough has made a comeback within the last decade, according to the CDC. About half of babies who get whooping cough in their first year end up hospitalized. Between five to 15 babies of whooping cough die each year in the United States.

The study was published in the medical journal "Pediatrics."

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