Free Whooping Cough Vaccine for All Australian Pregnant Women

Pertussis vaccination was found safe for pregnant women

baby sleeping with chubby fingers

The Australian Government announced that pregnant women will be offered the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine at no charge.

Whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable disease, but newborn infants cannot be vaccinated until 6 weeks of age.

Which means, the most effective way to protect an infant against the disease is vaccination of the mother during pregnancy.

According to health experts, getting vaccinated during the third trimester of pregnancy allows the mother to pass whooping cough antibodies to her baby, protecting them until they are old enough to receive the vaccine themselves.

This announcement means the vaccine is added to the National Immunisation Program, guaranteeing its access, safety, and availability.

The free vaccine will be available from 1 July 2018 for all pregnant women and will cost the government $39.5 million dollars.

This is part of a broader investment in immunization, with Australian Government funding of $460 million in vaccines and related activities through the NIP this year alone.

Whooping cough is a terrible disease that can cause life-threatening complications, including pneumonia or brain damage. Babies in their first six months of life are most at risk.

In Australia, immunization coverage for infants has increased since 2008, but have not reached the aspirational target of 95 percent.

At March 2018, the national coverage rates in Australia were: 

  • 94.1 percent of all one-year-olds
  • 90.5 percent of all two-year-olds
  • 94.2 percent of all five-year-olds.

Before listing this vaccine, medical experts from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation undertook an extensive investigation of this vaccine and determined it to be safe and effective.

Separately, in February of 2018, a research study evaluated whether receiving Tdap vaccine during pregnancy increases the risk of infant hospitalization, or death, in the first 6 months of life.

These researchers confirmed this vaccination was found safe for pregnant women.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.