RCOG statement: Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination now offered from 20 weeks of pregnancy Skip to main content
Back to news homepage

RCOG statement: Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination now offered from 20 weeks of pregnancy

News 21 April 2016

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reviewed new evidence on the optimum time to offer whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy.

As a result of JCVI’s review it now recommended that from 1 April 2016, vaccination should be offered between gestational weeks 16 and 32 to maximise the likelihood that the baby will be protected from birth.

Women will now be offered the whooping cough vaccine by their GP or maternity services from their 20th week of pregnancy, or soon after their scan. Previously the vaccine was not offered until the 28th week of pregnancy. Women may still be immunised after week 32 of pregnancy but this may not offer as high a level of passive protection to the baby.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious disease that can be very serious for babies under one year of age. Around 300 babies are admitted to hospital every year with whooping cough. A vaccine against whooping cough has been routinely offered to pregnant women since autumn 2012, because a large outbreak that year resulted in a number of deaths in infants under three months of age.

Pregnant women who receive the whooping cough vaccination produce antibodies to whooping cough which are passed through the placenta to their baby. The baby then has good protection against whooping cough when it is born. This protection will wear off and babies should receive their routine whooping cough vaccine from 8 weeks of age.

Professor Alan Cameron, vice president for clinical quality at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said:

“Whooping cough can be especially dangerous in newborns who are at greater risk of complications, which can lead to death, if they catch the infection before they are routinely immunised from two months of age. We strongly recommend all pregnant women accept the vaccine when it is offered to them by their GP or midwife.

“We understand some women may have concerns about receiving vaccinations during their pregnancy but we can provide reassurance that the whooping cough vaccine is safe for use during pregnancy with no known adverse side effects for mother or baby. Having the vaccine, ideally between 16-32 weeks of pregnancy when it is most effective, is the only way to help protect babies from getting whooping cough in the first few weeks of their life.”

Ends

Notes to Editors