Whooping Cough Vaccine

Holly HornerHealth Information

Whooping Cough Vaccine for Pregnant Women

Canterbury is currently experiencing a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak. Therefore, all pregnant women in Canterbury are being advised to have a pertussis vaccine. The vaccine is subsidised for pregnant women from 28 weeks of pregnancy up to 2 weeks after the birth of their baby. For women who have a premature delivery, the vaccine is subsidised for up to 2 weeks after their expected delivery date.

  • The vaccine is best given between 30 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, as this allows enough time for antibodies produced by the pregnant mother to be transferred to her baby, which helps protect the baby from birth. The baby is thought to receive the maximum amount of antibodies when the vaccine is given between 31 and 33 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The vaccine can be given after 36 weeks of pregnancy, but there may not be enough time for antibodies produced by the pregnant mother to be transferred to her baby. However it will protect the mother from getting pertussis.

What is whooping cough (pertussis)?

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a very contagious illness that causes bouts of severe coughing, which can last up to 3 months. It is dangerous for a baby under 1 year old to get whooping cough, as they may get very sick and need to go to hospital. Some babies who get whooping cough will die.

Why should I get vaccinated?

If you get whooping cough while you are pregnant or after your baby is born, there is a high chance you will pass it onto your baby. Because of the current outbreak, you are more likely to get whooping cough. Therefore, you should consider having the vaccine to reduce your risk of getting whooping cough.

It is also thought that you will pass on some immunity from whooping cough to your baby.

The Ministry of Health and the Canterbury District Health Board are subsidising the vaccine for all pregnant mothers from 28 weeks of pregnancy and women up to 2 weeks after the birth of their baby (or 2 weeks after the expected delivery date, for women who deliver prematurely). The best time to have the vaccine is between 30 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. You should have this current (Tdap) booster even if you had a childhood whooping cough vaccination, or one earlier than 5 years ago.

What about other family members?

All other people in your household, as well as other close family members (such as grandparents) should have a whooping cough vaccination, as they could be at risk of passing it onto your baby. The vaccine is not subsidised for adults, but it is free for children as part of the normal childhood vaccination programme. Your baby should still have their normal course of vaccinations, starting at 6 weeks.

Is this vaccine safe to have in pregnancy?

The United States Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices (ACIP) have looked carefully at the information available on whooping cough vaccine in pregnant women, and have recommended that pregnant women should be vaccinated during a whooping cough outbreak. To read more about the safety of the vaccine, see the information sheet “Pertussis Vaccine for Pregnant and Postpartum Women”. This is available from your midwife or general practice, or from healthinfo.org.nz (search for “pertussis”).

As with all vaccines, there is a small risk of side effects, and for this reason you will need to stay at the practice for 20 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

If you cannot or choose not to have this vaccine during pregnancy, you should consider having it within 2 weeks after the birth of your baby. This will still protect the mother from whooping cough, but may not give protection to your baby.

How do I get the vaccination?

Call the Nurse for an appointment to have the vaccination. Let them know you are coming in for the pertussis booster vaccine, as they may need to order it, which can take 1 – 2 days.

The cost of the vaccine and a contribution to giving the injection is subsidised by the Canterbury District Health Board. However, your general practice team may charge you if you require extra services or time.

For more information on whooping cough, visit www.immune.org.nz and search “whooping cough”.

Developed and approved by Canterbury DHB public health, paediatric, and obstetric clinicians, and general practice representatives April 2012.