Vaccination in pregnancy

Vaccination in pregnancy

Information for immunisation providers

Fact sheet for health professionals

Fact sheet for pregnant women

What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious infection of the nose and throat. It is spread by coughing and sneezing or direct contact with infected droplets from the nose and mouth.

Outbreaks of the disease occur every four to five years. Those most at risk from the disease are babies less than six months old, particularly those less than three months old.

Why should pregnant women be vaccinated against whooping cough?

It helps protect the mother – Whooping cough 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 whooping cough 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 you in response to the vaccine are passed to your baby across the placenta soon after vaccination and until delivery.

Your antibodies in the baby can help protect your newborn during the first months of life when it is most at risk to severe whooping cough infection and still too young to be vaccinated themselves.

When is the best time during my pregnancy to get the whooping cough vaccine?

The best time to get the whooping cough vaccine is between 28 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. This is because it takes two weeks for you to make antibodies and pass them to your baby, which starts around 30 weeks.

Can I still get the whooping cough vaccine if I am more than 32 weeks pregnant?

Yes. Whooping cough vaccine can be given at any time during the third trimester. However, if your baby is born early, it may not be as well protected if vaccination is given late in pregnancy.

Do I need the whooping cough vaccine with each pregnancy?

Yes. As your immunity gets less over time it is better to have the vaccine again with each pregnancy to make sure the antibodies can be passed across to your baby.

What whooping cough vaccine is available for pregnant women?

Adacel® is the free whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women.

How safe is the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy?

There is no proof this vaccine will cause any problems in your pregnancy.

If you had the vaccine before you got pregnant or if you have had it a couple of times then it might make your arm sore. 

Are there people who should not get the whooping cough vaccine?

Talk to your doctor if you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of any whooping cough, tetanus, or diphtheria containing vaccine, or if you have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine. They will let you know if it is safe for you to have the vaccine.  

Can I get whooping cough from the whooping cough vaccine?

No. Whooping cough vaccines won't give you or your baby whooping cough.

If I had the vaccine in high school do I still need to be vaccinated during pregnancy?

Yes. You still need to be vaccinated during pregnancy. Even if you had Boostrix® or Adacel® before, your immunity gets less over time and may not be enough to protect your baby.

If I have had whooping cough disease, do I still need the vaccine?

Yes. Immunity from the disease is not life long and wears off over time.

Where can I get immunised?

The whooping cough vaccine is free for pregnant women in their third trimester. It is available from your doctor, some council immunisation clinics and some antenatal clinics.

Where can other people in my family get the vaccine?

For other family members or close contacts, the vaccine is not free but they can get one from their doctor with a script.

What else I can do to protect my baby from whooping cough?

Your baby should have all their whooping cough vaccines on time at six weeks, four months, six months and 18 months old.

Anyone who will have close contact with your baby should also be immunised. This includes the other parent, grandparents, carers and any other adult or child who will have close contact with your baby in the early weeks of life. They should have the vaccine at least two weeks before starting close contact with your baby.

Can whooping cough vaccine be given at the same time as an flu vaccine?

Yes. flu vaccine should be given with every pregnancy at any time during the pregnancy and is also free.

What if I've had a tetanus booster (ADT) already during pregnancy?

If you had a tetanus vaccination for a wound but the vaccine didn't have whooping cough in it, you should still have a whooping cough vaccination to provide protection against whooping cough for your newborn. 

Will my baby still need to be vaccinated against whooping cough at six weeks if I had the vaccine while pregnant?

Yes. Even if you got the whooping cough vaccine, your baby will still need to be vaccinated for whooping cough when they get to six weeks old.

June 2015