Is the “no jab, no cuddle” policy enough to protect your baby?
It sounds pretty harsh, but that’s the advice you get when you give birth. If your family and friends haven’t been vaccinated against whooping cough, you shouldn’t let them visit your newborn baby.
That’s right. Your mum and dad may have been hanging out for what seems like forever to meet their new grandchild, but if they haven’t had their needles recently, that’s too bad. Same goes for your pushy aunt. Your chatty next-door neighbour. Your ever-supportive best friend. No jab, no cuddle.
The death of Perth baby Riley Hughes has shaken up a lot of parents. Riley was just 32 days old when he died last week from complications arising from whooping cough. He was too young to be vaccinated himself.
So if we get tough and make sure our newborns are surrounded by people who have been vaccinated against whooping cough, is that enough to keep them safe?
Sadly, no. It’s helpful, but it’s not enough.
Professor Peter McIntyre from the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases says this strategy will only reduce the risk of a baby catching whooping cough by 50 per cent. That's because the vaccine wears off.
"So there have been instances where an adult has been vaccinated within the last two or three years and yet they’ve still transmitted [whooping cough] to a baby," he says.
Older siblings who have been vaccinated can also pass on the disease because their immunity can wear off before their four-year booster.