All pregnant women in Australia will soon have access to a free whooping cough vaccination.
As part of the Federal Budget, the government will make free whooping cough shots available to ALL pregnant women. And it starts from July 2018.
The vaccine will be added to the national immunisation program at a cost of $39.5 million, Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced. While some states already offer the vaccine free, others do not. Many pregnant women instead pay for the life-saving vaccine from their own pocket.
Mr Hunt urged all pregnant women to discuss the vaccination with their caregivers.
“Whooping cough is a vaccine preventable disease and I urge all mums-to-be to get vaccinated,” he said. “There are now no barriers and no excuses for not protecting yourself, your family and the rest of the community.”
Doctors also recommend that fathers or others coming into contact with a new baby get a whooping cough booster. They should have the jab at least two weeks before the baby is born.
A lifesaver for newborn babies
The parents of baby Riley Hughes have welcomed the free vaccine announcement. Their precious baby contracted whooping cough and died when he was just 32 days old. .
The couple have campaigned tirelessly for the vaccination to be included in the schedule. “Relief, excitement, gratitude. That’s how we feel today, because the Federal Health Minister has officially announced that the whooping cough vaccine… will now be funded on the National Immunisation Program (NIP), permanently,” Riley’s parents Catherine and Greg Hughes wrote on their Facebook page, Light for Riley.
“This is the vaccine that we have been so passionately advocating for. This is the vaccine that could have saved Riley’s life, had we been offered it.”
Whooping cough (also known as ‘pertussis’) is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It is most serious in babies under 12 months and particularly in newborns due to their soft airways which are vulnerable to damage from severe coughing.
As recent outbreaks in Northern Queensland and South Australia have shown, whooping cough is still a serious concern for parents with young children.
Babies cannot be vaccinated until six weeks of age. According to medical experts, the best way to protect babies is through vaccinating women during pregnancy. The combination of whooping cough antibodies being passed through the mother’s bloodstream and the reduced risk of the mother contracting the disease after birth, helps lower the risk of an infant being exposed and becoming ill.
When Catherine was pregnant with Riley, the whooping cough vaccination was not routinely offered, something that ultimately meant he had no protection against the disease.
The free vaccine will be available from July 1, 2018 for all pregnant women in Australia.
For more information about pregnancy health, read our article about the new test that can predict premature births and save the lives of babies.