Free whooping cough vaccine for mums-to-be now available at new Westmead clinic

11 Dec 2015

Pregnant women planning to give birth at Westmead Hospital will now be able to access free vaccinations against whooping cough via a new Whooping Cough Immunisation Clinic.

The service - the first of its kind for the Western Sydney Local Health District - officially opened on Friday, December 11 in the Women’s Health Clinic at Westmead Hospital.

The free vaccination, which will be administered by midwives, aims to reduce the risk of newborn babies contracting whooping cough in the first few months of life.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial disease that is spread when an infectious person coughs into the air, infecting people nearby.

It usually starts as a cold, with a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a slight fever, tiredness and a mild cough, which gets worse and leads to uncontrollable coughing.

Coughing bouts can be followed by vomiting, choking or taking a big gasping breath, which causes a “whooping” sound.

Anyone can be affected with whooping cough but it is more severe - and potentially fatal - in newborn babies, who may not have a cough but may stop breathing and turn blue.

A nurse administering a whooping cough injection at the Westmead Hospital Whooping Cough Immunisation Clinic

 

Women’s Health Clinic acting nursing unit manager Quentine Kwong said whooping cough vaccinations for pregnant women were important in preventing newborn deaths.

“Whooping cough kills about 195,000 children worldwide each year,” she said.

 “A major goal in Australia is the prevention of severe whooping cough, particularly in infants, and vaccination in pregnancy has shown to be the most effective way to protect babies during the period before they develop their own immunity through infant vaccination, which starts from six weeks of age”.

“Vaccination during pregnancy means mum’s body produces antibodies that get passed on to her baby before birth; the antibodies protect the newborn baby until they are ready to receive their own vaccinations.”

The NSW Antenatal Pertussis Vaccination program started on April 1 this year.

It offers a free whooping cough vaccine to all pregnant women in their third trimester.

Women are advised to have this vaccine at 28 to 32 weeks gestation and with each pregnancy to protect their newborn.

Under the national immunisation program, whooping cough vaccinations are given to children at six weeks, four months and six months of age with boosters four years and in their first year of high school. A booster is also recommended at 18 months of age.

It is important that babies receive their whooping cough vaccinations on time.

The Westmead Hospital Whooping Cough Immunisation Clinic is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4.30pm.