By MAMAMIA TEAM
There is no cure for whooping cough. And statistics show that one in 200 babies who contract the disease will die from it.
Recently, the NSW government decided to cease providing a free whooping cough vaccination booster to new mothers. Instead, new mothers will now have to pay anywhere between $40 to $200 to receive their vaccination during pregnancy.
Over the past four years, the NSW government has provided over 1 million doses of the vaccination for free, during an intense campaign aimed at decreasing cases of whooping cough in the state.
From 2009-2011, NSW Health also provided the whooping vaccination boosters for free to other parents, grandparents and adults in close contact with infants – but this scheme ceased in July last year.
The combined campaign targeting new mothers in maternity units, and providing the vaccine for free to other adults, worked. In December 2008 – at the epidemic’s peak – almost 2000 individual cases of whooping cough were notified in NSW. In 2009 and 2011, numbers peaked again.
But in recent months, the numbers have fallen to 200 notifications per month. The NSW Government has decided that, since the epidemic appears to have passed, it is time to enter into a new phase.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases, said, “We’re encouraged to see that the epidemic period has passed. Nevertheless there is no room for complacency and we want to ensure that expectant parents and their doctors are aware of the optimal protection for newborns from whooping cough.”
The new plan from the NSW Government is to encourage mothers-to-be to receive the vaccination before the baby is born, during their third trimester.
Dr Sheppeard said, “Research by NSW Health and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance confirms it’s best to get vaccinated before conception, during the third trimester of pregnancy or failing that, at soon as possible after delivery.”
“A lot of parents don’t get vaccinated until a few weeks after birth which is too late to protect the most vulnerable very young babies.”
However, many vaccination advocates are not happy about the changes the NSW Health is making. There are still dangerously low pockets of vaccination rates across NSW – in some areas lower than Rwanda and other third world countries.
Their concerns are that a booster can cost anywhere between $40-200 (depending on whether the woman needs to visit her GP more than once) – and given that health professionals seemingly struggle to get their message across as it is, making the process for pregnant women to get vaccinated even more difficult seems like a bad idea.