Canterbury free whooping cough boosters

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Pregnant women, from 30 weeks of pregnancy, and those who are up to two weeks after delivering their baby are being encouraged to have a free whooping cough immunisation.

For best protection of their newborn the booster immunisation would be given by the end of the 36th week of pregnancy (ideally between 31-33 weeks). This allows time for the woman's immune system to produce protection against whooping cough, reducing the risk she will have the disease when the baby is actually delivered. Circulating protection against whooping cough can also pass through the placenta into the baby and provide the baby with some of their own protection against the disease for a short period of time (this varies between mothers and babies). The immunisation can be given and is free between 37-40+ weeks of pregnancy.

The booster immunisation can be given anytime from 30 weeks of pregnancy to two weeks after delivery.

For best protection of the newborn the booster immunisation would be given by the end of the 36th week of pregnancy (ideally between 31-33 weeks):

  • This allows time for the woman's immune system to produce protection against whooping cough, reducing the risk she will have the disease when the baby is actually delivered and for the subsequent year when the baby's risk of complications from whooping cough is highest.
  • Circulating protection against whooping cough can also pass through the placenta into the baby and provide the baby with some of their own protection against the disease for a short period of time (this varies between mothers and babies).

However, after 36 weeks of pregnancy administering the booster immunisation:

  • Will increase the woman's protection against whooping cough, reducing the risk that she will have the disease during the baby's first year of life when their risk of complications from whooping cough is highest.
  • But may not allow enough time before delivery for the woman to produce whooping cough protection and for this protection to pass through the placenta into the baby.

However, after delivery of the baby administering the booster immunisation:

  • Will increase the woman's protection against whooping cough, reducing the risk that she will have the disease during the baby's first year of life when their risk of complications from whooping cough is highest.

Babies less than one year of age, and particularly less than six months of age, have the highest risk of getting whooping cough (pertussis) and needing to be hospitalised. Reducing the risk that their mother and other household members will get whooping cough means they are less likely to get the disease too. Immunity against whooping cough decreases over time, 10-15 years after having the disease and 4-6 years after having the vaccine people can get whooping cough again. This means that it is always around and there are outbreaks every few years.

After the course of whooping cough immunisations or after a booster immunisation around 86 people out of every 100 people will be fully protected from the disease. The other 14 people may still get pertussis but it is usually more mild than if they hadn't had the immunisation.

The whooping cough vaccine is combined with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines (Tdap). It doesn't contact the actual diseases and cannot cause disease. After years of administering non-live vaccines to pregnant women they are considered safe for both the mother and the fetus, e.g. in some countries the only time health professionals see women regularly is during pregnancy and the ante-natal visits are used to ensure they have a course of tetanus vaccine.

It doesn't matter of the pregnant women has recently had a tetanus and diphtheria (Td) immunisation because of a wound that may have been contaminated with tetanus. As long as four weeks have passed she can have the tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough vaccine.

All the young children in the household should be up to date with their childhood immunisations. Older children and adults in the household should have a tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough vaccine too. However they have to buy their vaccine through their GP.

Practice staff are reminded that the Tdap (Boostrix®) vaccine routinely in the vaccine fridge for the 11 year old immunisation IS NOT to be used for non-funded patients. Either Adacel® or Boostrix® MUST be purchased from Healthcare Logistics for anyone not having their 11 year old schedule immunisation.

For more information visit the Canterbury HealthInfo website - click on 'Women's Health, then on 'Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Vaccine for Pregnant and Postpartum Women.