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Whooping cough vaccination of baby’s visitors

June 21st, 2020

Whooping cough (a.k.a. pertussis) is a dangerous disease that can kill newborn babies – even in civilised countries like Australia.  

New born baby who may be at risk of whooping cough/ pertussis

Newborn babies are at risk of Whooping Cough

In the womb, mothers give babies antibodies to many diseases e.g. measles – but not to whooping cough. Furthermore,  whooping cough vaccination cannot be given to babies until 6-8 weeks of age. The vaccine just does not work very well in the very young. Really good protection takes 2 doses of vaccine, so that’s about 4 months of age.

Adults with whooping cough can cough for 10 weeks. Newborns who contract whooping cough cannot cough: instead, they stop breathing and can die. Early in my career, I worked in paediatric wards. My work included being called to a few babies with whooping cough who had stopped breathing.  My job was to try to bring these little darlings back to life. I am pleased to report all my little patients survived but some sufferers are not so lucky.  It is SO much better if they don’t get sick from whooping cough in the first place!

Who needs vaccination?

The only way to protect these newborns is to vaccinate those persons around the baby; eg parents, grandparents, etc. All visitors should be vaccinated.  This ‘cocooning’ prevents caregivers from inadvertently infecting the baby with this awful disease. Persons without apparent symptoms can spread whooping cough ( a bit like COVID-19 can spread from asymptomatic people).

Studies have shown that most babies who catch whooping cough catch it from their parents or household members. One study in 2006-2008 in the Netherlands, found that 14% of those who gave pertussis to a baby had no symptoms, so it is never good enough just to keep sick persons away from newborn babies.

Whooping cough vaccine is in the regular vaccine schedule.

Normal regular routine vaccination protects persons up to age 20.  Older persons such as parents and grandparents need to check that their protection is current.  In 2011,  QLD Health offered free vaccination to all adults in the household of a baby under 6 months of age. Unfortunately, Qld health no longer funds the program,  but vaccination of contacts is still a very important part of protecting newborns.

The vaccine for whooping cough includes vaccines for tetanus and diphtheria as well. The vaccine costs about $50 and makes your arm a little sore for a few days.

Call the clinic 07 3221 9066 to make an appointment but do this well in advance. The whooping cough vaccine takes 14 days to take effect.

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One Response to “Whooping cough vaccination of baby’s visitors”

  1. Angela Lee says:

    This would decrease the growing risk of whooping cough. Resulting to better protection and better health prospects.

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