Pregnant Women Urged to Get Whooping Cough Vaccine
Tuesday 3 December 2013
Pregnant Women Urged to Get Whooping Cough Vaccine Before Christmas
Infants are at increased risk of falling prey to the national whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic as families gather to celebrate Christmas.
During this high-risk period Waikato DHB urges pregnant women in the Waikato region to make the most of the Ministry of Health’s free whooping cough immunisation for women 28 to 38 weeks pregnant.
The vaccine reduces the risk of the pregnant mother contracting whooping cough and can help protect the baby for at least the first six weeks of life through antibodies passed through the placenta and through breast milk.
"The vaccine is particularly important at this time of year because 70 per cent of babies contract whooping cough from household contact," said Waikato DHB immunisation coordinator Kim Hunter.
"Christmas increases the risk of babies contracting whooping cough. Families, who are carrying it, come together and pass it onto babies who are much more vulnerable. The illness is not seasonal so it's vital we don't let our guard down just because winter is over.
“It is also really important to ensure babies also receive their free vaccinations on time, every time. Infants are not fully protected from whooping cough until they have received all three doses given at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age,” Mrs Hunter said.
The Ministry of Health further recommends that all adults in contact with babies or young children should be immunised for whooping cough.
Whooping cough is a very contagious illness that
commonly results in bouts of severe coughing.
"The illness can cause babies to stop breathing. Severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, collapsed lungs, or even brain damage or death," said Mrs Hunter.
"It's frightening for parents to see, and we are continuing to have babies hospitalised in the Waikato."
In the month of October 2013, Waikato was one the three regions with the highest number of reported whooping cough cases (excluding cases under investigation). Forty-four cases were reported by Canterbury DHB, 28 by Counties Manukau DHB, and 20 by Waikato DHB.
Since 1 January 2013, 3199 cases of
whooping cough have been notified, including 1412 confirmed,
1548 probable, 129 suspect, and 110 cases still under
The symptoms can last up to three months and can be especially severe in infants under one year of age.
"This free maternal vaccination is key for protecting babies who are too young to be vaccinated. We're also recommending that partners, siblings, and extended family members go to their GP for a vaccination."
Facts about pertussis and the vaccine:
• Around seven out of 10 babies who get pertussis before the age of six months need hospitalisation, and one in 30 of those hospitalised die from pertussis infection.
• Severe coughing can temporarily stop the oxygen supply to the brain (hypoxia). In around two per 1000 children, pertussis leads to permanent brain damage, paralysis, deafness, or blindness.
• Secondary infections such as pneumonia and ear infections can also occur.
• The disease is usually milder in adolescents and adults.
• The pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is a subunit vaccine. Subunit vaccines are not live and are generally considered safe in pregnancy. "Live" vaccines are not recommended in pregnancy.
• The vaccine provides protection against whooping cough to 84 - 88 per cent of those who receive it.