In a nutshell
The combined whooping cough jab is safe and recommended for women between 28-32 weeks pregnant
The expert view
Whooping cough jabs are now routinely offered to pregnant women between 28-38 weeks gestation as a way to help protect their babies against the disease until they can be vaccinated themselves at two months old, explains GP Dr Philippa Kaye.
The immunity mums-to-be get from the jab passes through the placenta to the baby, with the most effective time to get the vaccine from 28-32 weeks of pregnancy.
Prof Alan Cameron, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: “We understand some women may have concerns about receiving vaccinations during their pregnancy, but we can provide reassurance that the whooping cough vaccine is safe for use during pregnancy, with no known adverse side effects for mother or baby.”
About the jab
The whooping cough jab – also called the pertussis-containing vaccine – has been used regularly in pregnant women since October 2012 and its safety has been carefully monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The MHRA’s study of nearly 20,000 vaccinated women found no evidence of risks to pregnancy or babies and to date, 50-60% of eligible pregnant women (over half a million) have received the whooping cough vaccine with no safety concerns for the mum or baby.
And Public Health England (PHE) said that the vaccination had reduced the risk of a newborn developing whooping cough by 91%.
Isn’t whooping cough rare though?
Not as much as you might think. During 2012, 14 babies died from whooping cough, all of whom were born before the vaccination in pregnancy programme was introduced, and developed whooping cough before they could be vaccinated themselves.
The number of infant deaths from whooping cough fell to three in 2013 – all three babies were too young to have been vaccinated themselves and none of their mothers had been vaccinated in pregnancy.
Prof John Watson, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said whooping cough was “an extremely distressing illness”, confirmed this: “Deaths in infants with whooping cough have reduced significantly since the introduction of the vaccine for pregnant women in 2012 so I encourage all pregnant women to take up the pertussis vaccine when offered.”
Which whooping cough vaccine will I be given?
Up until July 2014, the NHS was using a vaccine called Repevax, but that has now been changed to Boostrix IPV because it is better value, according to Public Health England, which decides on which vaccines to buy.
Boostrix IPV is licensed for use in pregnancy, and Dr Kaye adds “we want to be encouraging women to use it”.
She explains: “The whooping cough vaccine is a combination vaccine protecting against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. It is not possible to get the whooping cough vaccine on its own without the other components.”
Mums on our forum say
“The whooping cough one was quite itchy for a few days and bruised worse than the flu. It’s quite ugly!” Sian
“I’ll be having it, I’d rather have it than watch my newborn/baby under 3 months in hospital fighting whooping cough.” Anonymousmumdrum