Whooping cough and pregnant women

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 the 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.