Whooping cough vaccine – protecting newborns
Vaccinating women against pertussis ideally from 20 to 32 weeks gestation provides two-for-one protection for newborn babies. The mother is protected by the vaccine, reducing her risk of infection and therefore the risk of passing infection onto her newborn. Antibodies produced against pertussis during pregnancy are also transferred to the baby in utero, providing added protection through passive immunity. These antibodies help to protect the baby in the period before they receive their first vaccines at 6 weeks, 4 months and 6 months of age.
If women miss the vaccine during pregnancy it can be given in the postpartum period. Partners of pregnant women can receive the vaccine, at any time from the third trimester of pregnancy if they have not received the vaccine in the last ten years. The vaccine helps to protect the newborn by reducing the risk of transmission of infection.
Whooping cough vaccine eligibility
The following people living in Victoria are eligible to receive the free vaccine.
- All pregnant women from 20 weeks gestation during every pregnancy regardless of the interval between pregnancies
- partners of pregnant women in the third trimester if the partner has not received a pertussis vaccine booster in the past 10 years
- parents/guardians of babies, if their baby is under 6 months of age and they have not received a pertussis vaccine booster in the past 10 years.
Parents and guardians include, but are not limited to:
- same-sex partners
- foster parents
- adoptive parents
- surrogate parents
- any other legal guardians.
Grandparents are only eligible for the free vaccine if they are the primary carer or legal guardian of the newborn baby. All other grandparents in close contact with newborns can purchase vaccine with a private prescription.
Whooping cough vaccine – brands
The vaccines used in this program are Boostrix® or Adacel®. These vaccines contain a reduced antigen formulation for adults and adolescents combining diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis antigens.
The only absolute contraindication to these vaccines are a history of anaphylactic reaction to any of the vaccine components.
Whooping cough vaccine – timing
Pregnant women should ideally be vaccinated from 20 to 32 weeks gestation of every pregnancy, regardless of the interval between pregnancies. This provides the best protection for the newborn. The vaccine can be given any time up until delivery.
If the vaccine is not given during pregnancy, women should be vaccinated as soon as possible after delivery, preferably before discharge from hospital and before the baby is 6 weeks old, when the baby can present for their first scheduled pertussis vaccine.
If parents have not been vaccinated during pregnancy or soon after delivery, there is some benefit from providing the vaccine up to the time when the baby turns 6 months of age.
Other parents or guardians (as listed above)
All parents or guardians should be vaccinated before the baby is born if they have not received a pertussis-containing booster in the past 10 years.
The vaccine should be given to parents or guardians early in the third trimester of the pregnancy. This allows time to develop an effective immune response before the baby is born. The vaccine can be provided up to the time when the baby turns 6 months of age.
Administration with other vaccines
Boostrix® and Adacel® are inactivated vaccines and can be given on the same day or within any interval of other vaccines.
Boostrix® or Adacel® can be given after a recent dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine (ADT®) because there is no minimum interval between administration of tetanus-containing vaccines. There is a small increased risk of localised adverse reactions, but this is offset by the benefits to the newborn.
Boostrix® or Adacel® can be given at the same time as an influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccine is also free for pregnant women and recommended at any time during every pregnancy.
Whooping cough vaccine program – consent
Written consent is not required to administer the vaccine. As with all medical interventions, it is important to obtain appropriate informed consent in the usual way. You are advised to talk to your patients about the vaccination before administering it.
Whooping cough vaccine – reporting adverse reactions
As with all vaccinations, it is important that you report any unexpected or significant adverse reactions to the Victorian vaccine safety service, SAEFVIC, by phone (1300 882 924 - option1) or online.
Vaccinations during pregnancy fact sheet assists providers to discuss the benefits of pertussis and influenza vaccines during pregnancy.