The Western Australian Health Minister announced new recommendations for whooping cough ( pertussis) vaccination for pregnant women will commence in two weeks . The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and the update to Western Australian  Immunisation Guidelines were both due to finalise recommendations later this year, but have brought forward the change in response to the recent death of a four week old baby from whooping cough.

Free vaccination will be offered in the third trimester of pregnancy, changing the current recommendation of post-partum vaccination and vaccination when planning pregnancy.

The United Kingdom commenced a pertussis vaccination programme for pregnant women in 2012 and studies published in the Lancet 2014 demonstrated a major reduction in hospital admissions of infants aged under three months with pertussis. The researchers said the reduction rates resulted from protection of the infants by both passive antibodies acquired during pregnancy and reduced maternal exposure.

Safety concerns were addressed in a study published by the BMJ in July 2014. There was no increase in the risk of serious adverse events including stillbirth, eclampsia, low birth-weight or death of mother or baby in more than 20,000 UK women who received a combined diphtheria/pertussis and polio vaccine.

A recent study of Israeli pregnant women found vaccination between 27 and 30 weeks produced higher umbilical cord antibody levels when compared to 31-36 weeks. This study also confirmed the antibody level of those vaccinated in pregnancy was substantially higher than those who had not received the vaccine in pregnancy by 10-20 times.

There is no blood test to determine antibody levels in the mother for protection for herself or her baby, and the vaccine will be recommended during pregnancy even if you have been ill with whooping cough in the past . It is likely that if you have received the vaccine or tetanus vaccine alone within ten years ,Western Australia guidelines will follow those of the United Kingdom and USA and the vaccine will also be advised in a second pregnancy within two years. The authorities consider the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the theoretical risk of severe hypersensitivity due to administering the tetanus component. Experts believe that the risk of these rare side effects have been reduced as the tetanus containing vaccines are made with lower doses of the tetanus component than previously.

The flu vaccine can be administered safely at the same visit, however the flu vaccine should be given as early as possible in the flu season and the whooping cough vaccine is most effective when given in the third trimester

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