Do I need a whooping cough vaccine?
The NSW Health Department recently changed its guidelines and now recommends that all pregnant women be vaccinated against whooping cough in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. But did you realise that the vaccination doesn’t just protect you, it protects your baby too?
Unfortunately, newborns can’t receive their first whooping cough vaccination until they are 6-8 weeks old. However, recent studies showed that vaccinating mothers at 28 – 32 weeks of pregnancy significantly reduced the risk of newborns becoming sick with whooping cough. This is because some of the mother’s antibodies pass into the baby’s bloodstream, offering protection until the baby is old enough to receive his or her vaccinations. It also means that mum is less likely to become infected herself and pass it on to the baby.
What is whooping cough?
Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a bacterial infection. It affects people of all ages, but is particularly severe in infants. It starts like a cold, developing into a severe cough, with a characteristic “whooping” sound. In babies, whooping cough can lead to difficulty breathing, vomiting, feeding problems, pneumonia, seizures and organ failure. In the past few years, several infants in Australia have died due to whooping cough.
Should my family be vaccinated?
The whooping cough vaccine protects the mum from catching the infection and passing it to her newborn baby. For the same reason, anyone who will be in close contact with the baby should be up to date with their vaccinations. Older children should have had all the recommended childhood immunisations. Fathers, grandparents and other close contacts should be vaccinated, or have a booster shot if their last whooping cough vaccination was more than 10 years ago. They should have the shot at least two weeks before coming in contact with the baby.
Where can I get the whooping cough vaccine?
Pregnant women are entitled to a free whooping cough vaccine. Most patients get this through their GP. At SHORE for Women, we offer pertussis and seasonal influenza vaccinations to all our antenatal patients.