Whooping cough vaccine will be free for pregnant women in new budget

Kinderling News & Features

The 2018/2019 budget announcement didn’t really bring many surprises to affect families in a huge way. But the early announcement of a better access to the whooping cough vaccine for all pregnant women is one to celebrate!

Important reform

Free whooping cough vaccination will be available from July 1, 2018 for all pregnant women.

While this vaccine is already available to women in some states, it’s being rolled out nationally as part of the National Immunisation Schedule, making it accessible to all expectant mums.

This is an especially important – and life-saving – development, because babies can’t be vaccinated against the very contagious infection until they are six weeks old. This leaves them vulnerable in those first weeks of life unless their mum is immunised during pregnancy.

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Whooping cough is a serious bacterial infection, denoted by an uncontrollable cough and an accompanying “whooping” sound. Whooping cough prevents breathing and sleeping and causes vomiting. Also known as pertussis, this infection claims the lives of 1 in 200 Australian babies. Complications range from convulsions, brain damage and bleeding, through to death.

Devastating real-life stories

Two high-profile cases of infants tragically losing their lives to whooping cough, and the dedicated campaigning of these babies’ incredibly motivated parents, has kept this important issue in the spotlight and sparked this reform.

Baby Dana McCaffery was just four weeks old when whooping cough took her life. Riley Hughes died at a similarly tender age after he contracted the infection.

Announcing the national improvement to the immunisation schedule, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt paid tribute to these babies and others like them.

“I know what a devastating impact this disease can have on families and beautiful young children like Dana McCaffery and Riley Hughes,” he said, the ABC reports.

Families are relieved

Dana and Riley’s parents both made statements in the wake of this announcement, expressing their relief at this new push to keep babies safe from whooping cough.

“Relief, excitement, gratitude. That’s how we feel today,” Catherine and Greg Hughes said on their Light for Riley Facebook page.

“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. This is the vaccine that could potentially put an end to deaths from whooping cough in our country.”

“We are so relieved and grateful to announce that the maternal whooping cough booster will be added to the National Immunisation Program,” Toni and David McCaffery said via their Facebook page.

“This provides certainty and consistency. All pregnant women for generations to come across Australia will continue to have free access to this vital vaccine, regardless of where you live. Importantly, all families will receive the same information that they should have this booster with EACH pregnancy in their third trimester, between 28-32 weeks.”

Be careful

To keep infants as safe from whooping cough as possible, it’s advised that mums are immunised during EACH pregnancy – immunity provided by the vaccine can start to decrease after two years and stops completely by 10 years – and anyone who will come into contact with a new baby (who is not up to date or is unsure about their vaccination status) should get a whooping cough vaccine booster shot at least two weeks before the baby’s birth.

Find out more about keeping your family safe from preventable infections and diseases at the government’s immunisation website.

This post originally appeared on Babyology.