Published: Jan. 21, 2011
Updated: Jan. 21, 2011
If you’re an OB-GYN, you probably don’t think of yourself as being the source of booster vaccines for your patients. But maybe you should.
A new pilot study from Duke researchers shows that offering the shots to women who come in for their annual checkups can increase vaccination rates in both pregnant and non-pregnant patients. The program, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), could serve as a guide for other OB–GYN clinics to boost vaccination rates.
DukeMed Magazine talked with Geeta Swamy, MD, director of obstetrics clinical research at Duke, about the pilot program’s success in North Carolina.
We tend to think of vaccinations as happening at the offices of pediatricians, primary care physicians, and family practitioners. But many women seek medical care from their gynecologists even after they have children.
According to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology (March 1995), OB–GYNs provide more general medical care to adolescent and adult women than either family practice or internal medicine practitioners. So their annual gynecologist visit is a good opportunity to discuss preventive care, which includes vaccinating.
Initial data from one clinic show that doctors were already offering the HPV vaccine to women who weren’t pregnant, but when postpartum women were offered the vaccine, the rate of vaccination jumped from 0 to 44 percent. Without this program, these women would not have been vaccinated against a potentially life-threatening disease.
The pilot program was established mainly to improve the rates of vaccinations against human papillomavirus (HPV) among non-pregnant women and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) among non-pregnant and postpartum women.
The results of offering this vaccine were even more significant than expected. Nearly 600 women out of the 1,000 who were offered the Tdap vaccine for the first time received it.
Reaching women who had not yet received the Tdap vaccine is important because rates of pertussis have been rising for the last five years. Pertussis isn’t as serious in adolescents and adults, but it is life-threatening to infants under a year old who haven’t been fully immunized. In fact, the CDC reports that mothers are the primary source of infection in 32 percent of infant pertussis cases.
Ideally, we aim to vaccinate women before they conceive, but any postpartum woman should get the vaccine if her last tetanus-diphtheria shot was more than two years ago. By vaccinating new moms, we can provide a cocooning effect that protects their infants from a deadly disease.