Pertussis vaccination for pregnant women

Parents of Riley Hughes talk about Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine

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Recommendations for pertussis vaccine in pregnancy

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) states that pertussis containing (dTpa) vaccine is recommended as a single dose during the third trimester of each pregnancy, including pregnancies which are closely spaced (e.g. <2 years).

Vaccination during pregnancy has been shown to be more effective in reducing the risk of pertussis in young infants than post-partum vaccination of parents and grandparents.1 The optimal time to vaccinate antenatal patients with dTpa is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy.1

More information can be found by viewing the Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition (external site).

Why should pregnant women be vaccinated against pertussis?

Pertussis vaccination in pregnancy works in two ways:

  • It helps protect the mother – Pertussis vaccine reduces the risk of the mother catching whooping cough and passing it to her newborn baby. Parents are a common source of whooping cough infection for children under 12 months old.
  • It helps protect the baby – Babies born to mothers who have had a pertussis vaccine in pregnancy have higher levels of antibodies against the disease than babies whose mothers were not vaccinated. This is because the antibodies made by the mother in response to the vaccine are passed to her baby across the placenta soon after vaccination and until delivery. The mother's antibodies can help protect the newborn during the first months of life when they are most vulnerable to severe pertussis infection and still too young to be vaccinated themselves.

When is the best time for a pregnant woman to be vaccinated against pertussis?

The ATAGI recommends pertussis vaccine (dTpa) be given during the third trimester of every pregnancy, including pregnancies which are closely spaced (e.g. <2 years apart). The optimal time for pertussis vaccination is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, but the vaccine may be given at any time in the third trimester.

Women who have received pertussis vaccine during or after a previous pregnancy should be re-vaccinated in the third trimester of their current pregnancy.

Is the pertussis vaccine safe in pregnancy?

Pertussis vaccine has been used routinely in pregnant women in the UK and the US since 2012 and careful monitoring of this practice indicates that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their unborn babies.

In addition, large studies from the US and the UK looking at birth outcomes following pertussis vaccination during pregnancy have found no evidence of increased risk for stillbirth, premature birth, death of the baby within 28 days of birth, fetal distress, caesarean delivery or low birth weight.

Reporting reactions to pertussis vaccine

If a patient has symptoms you think may be a reaction to a vaccine, you should report the reaction WA Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS).

Please report an adverse event following immunisation by one of the following methods:

Antenatal immunisation consent forms

Antenatal immunisation providers may choose to use the antenatal consent form and influenza/pertussis vaccination in pregnancy fact sheets to support their practice. WA Health no longer requires completed forms to be sent to CDCD, please store them as per your organisational requirements.

Antenatal immunisation consent form

Vaccination in pregnancy fact sheets

Please share these fact sheets with your antenatal patients before they sign the immunisation consent form. The fact sheets contain information on the vaccines and the diseases they offer protection against. There is also a section at the bottom of the page where you can record the vaccine details for them to keep as a record.

More information

Reference

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. 10th ed. Canberra (AUST): AGPS; 2013.
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