On June, 3rd, we attended the 'Understanding vaccinations in the perinatal period' workshop, offered by the Australian Centre for Perinatal Science. The workshop included speakers Prof Mark Ferson and Dr Nick Wood. They explained the incredible reduction in incidence and severity of whooping cough following the increase in vaccinations over the last two decades.
Without vaccinations and modern medicine, it is estimated that whooping cough would be the cause of approximately 700 deaths per year. However, following the introduction of the pertussis vaccination in the 1920s, the death toll from this disease has dropped to only 1 per year across Australia.
It was highlighted that the disease cannot be eradicated with current vaccine technology, therefore the next best option is to protect the vulnerable – the young in particular. Babies are not able to receive the full dose of vaccine until 12 months of age, therefore, below this age, they have an increased risk compared with adlts. The other means of protection is cocooning. This method reduces the risk of a baby being infected by vaccinating the people closest to him or her and reducing the chance of exposure.
In recent months, NH&MRC have changed their recommendations to offer pregnant women pertussis vaccinations during the weeks 27-30 of each pregnancy. This way, the antibodies increase throughout gestation so by full term, the baby has maximal protection. Vaccination during pregnancy has a 91-93% effectiveness rate in preventing whopping cough in young infants. It is important that the women receive the vaccination with enough time for the vaccine to reach the baby, therefore the beginning of the third trimester is ideal.
For any families expecting babies, please be sure to arm yourselves with credible information and follow the vaccination guidelines outlined by the Australian Department of Health.
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