Whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women - & don't forget influenza vaccination
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly infectious, relatively common infection which is especially dangerous for our very youngest citizens, and very distressing for other people who catch it (hence the popular name “the 100 day cough”). If you have any uncertainty about what this infection is, and what it can do to a little baby, watch this short video about the McCaffrey family, who lost a baby to whooping cough.
Children are vaccinated against whooping cough from the age of 6 weeks. The vaccine is safe and effective, but it leaves the very youngest babies still at risk, because it takes 3 shots to develop full immunity - and that doesn’t happen until they are 5 months old.
The good news is that there is a very effective way to protect young babies from whooping cough: their mothers can be vaccinated during their pregnancy -between 28 and 38 weeks. Immunity in the form of antibodies passes through the placenta to the baby, giving temporary protection (until the baby is fully vaccinated). In NZ the vaccine is provided free to pregnant women.
It might sound scary to vaccinate pregnant women but recent research from different parts of the world (UK, USA, and Argentina) has shown that this approach is both safe and over 90% effective.
We strongly encourage all our pregnant mums-to-be to take up the option of a free whooping cough booster in the 3rd trimester of their pregnancy. If you know someone having a baby, remind them about this - they may not have heard how important and effective this simple step can be! Pregnant women are more susceptible to severe complications of influenza, so don't forget to get a flu shot if you are pregnant during the influenza season from March to September.
Another strategy to protect newborn babies is to ensure that adults who come into contact with them are given a booster of whooping cough vaccine, to reduce the chance of transmission. We also encourage this approach to reduce the spread of this vicious bacteria. Grandmas and grandads - this means you!
Talk to our doctors or nurses if you have any questions or concerns. If you are pregnant (between 28 and 38 weeks) don't hesitate - ring and book yourself in for this free shot right now!