Pregnant women are now advised to have a whooping cough vaccination from 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than 28 weeks, following new guidelines from the National Department of Health.
SA Health’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nicola Spurrier, said that vaccination during pregnancy can reduce the risk of pertussis (whooping cough) in young infants by 90 per cent.
“Babies less than six months of age are too young to be fully immunised against whooping cough and are at higher risk of severe disease, so it is important for mum to receive the vaccine which gives babies some protection,” Dr Spurrier said.
“After reviewing the evidence, the optimal timing to receive the vaccine has been revised and pregnant women can now receive the vaccine earlier to maximise protection for their infant if he or she is born pre-term.
“Whooping cough is very severe and can be life threatening in babies and young children, but thankfully we can prevent this through vaccination.
“Each year we see around 250,000 deaths in children worldwide from whooping cough, with even more children being hospitalised from the disease.
“The vaccine is free for pregnant women so I urge all expectant mothers to speak to their midwife or obstetrician about getting immunised.”
Women’s and Children’s Hospital nurse consultant, Breda MacDonald, said that vaccination is the best form of protection and pregnant mothers should be vigilant about receiving the shot.
“The whooping cough vaccine should be given in each pregnancy, even pregnancies close together, to give the best protection for each baby until they can complete their primary whooping cough immunisations at six months of age,” Ms MacDonald said.
“The whooping cough vaccination is also highly recommended for fathers, partners, grandparents, siblings and other carers involved in the care of young babies under the age of sixth months.
“Family members, particularly parents, are the source of infection in infants in more than 50 per cent of cases, so we strongly encourage anyone who is coming into close contact with babies to have the shot.”