On July the 9th, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg made a long hoped for announcement – Queensland will be providing free Whooping Cough (Pertussis) vaccinations for women in their third trimester of pregnancy, following dedicated campaigning by doctors, parent groups and concerned citizens.
Read more: Free whooping cough vaccine for all pregnant women in Queensland Courier Mail, 10th July 2014.
This is wonderful news for newborns and their families in Queensland. Maternal immunisation during the third trimester of pregnancy and the resulting passive antibody transfer to the infant has been shown to provide substantial protection to newborns during the first two months of life, before they are able to begin receiving whooping cough vaccinations (a three dose schedule, which is completed at six months). Maternal immunisation can also prevent the mother from contracting whooping cough herself, risking passing it on to her vulnerable infant.
Hopefully Queensland’s new policy will pave the way for other Australian states and territories to institute similar schemes, allowing families better access to a measure which can protect newborns from illness, disability and death.
If you are so inclined, please consider writing to and/or tweeting your state or territory leaders, health ministers and shadow health ministers to let them know that there is high community support for the provision of free whooping cough vaccines for pregnant women. I have listed contact details and Twitter accounts for them at the end of this post, and have been tweeting myself, using the hashtag #freewhoopingcoughvax.
I would like to share with you this letter written to the Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, and the New South Wales Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner. It was composed by Heidi Robertson and Alison Gaylard on behalf of the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters, a community group of concerned citizens who support vaccination and live in an area of New South Wales with alarmingly low vaccination rates.
Wednesday, 9th July, 2014
Dear Premier Baird and Ms. Skinner,
We write with regards the initiative announced by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman this morning (9th July 2014). Premier Newman revealed that Queensland Health will be funding a free Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine for women in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy.
We sincerely hope that NSW will follow suit with this initiative. It is of course based on the latest research and evidence which states that the Pertussis vaccine given in the third trimester is very effective at protecting the newborn baby during those crucial first two months before they can receive their first Pertussis vaccine. Mothers-to-be are also protected from Pertussis with this initiative which of course reduces the chances of transmission to the baby. Mothers, often being the primary caregiver of the baby, are in close physical proximity on a 24- hour basis and are often inadvertently responsible for passing this potentially deadly infection on to their babies.
Losing a baby to Pertussis, a Vaccine Preventable Disease, is of course devastating; the economic cost to government will also be greatly reduced if less infants need to be hospitalised in Paediatric Intensive Care Units (over 9 out of 10 babies under three months of age need to be hospitalised as a result of contracting pertussis).
Please consider following Queensland in this important endeavour.
Heidi Robertson and Alison Gaylard – acting on behalf of Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters.
Again, if this issue is important to you, please consider writing or tweeting to your state or territory health MPs. Thank you.
State and Territory Contacts:
New South Wales
New South Wales Health Department
Western Australian Health Department
Victorian Health Department
South Australia Health Department
Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services
More information on maternal immunisation for whooping cough:
Tdap for women – information for providers, CDC, 5th March 2014
Get whooping cough vaccine while you are pregnant, CDC, 11th June 2014
Push to immunise against whooping cough in the womb, ABC 7:30 Report, 4th July 2014
NSW Health New Pertussis Vaccination Recommendations, 15th July 2013
Stories regarding whooping cough and infants:
Pregnant mum feared she would lose baby, Sunday Mail, 13th April 2014.
Community groups in Australia campaigning for maternal immunisation for whooping cough: