Brisbane resident Stephanie Hall is expecting her first child, and like most first-time mothers, ensuring her baby gets the best start in life is her top priority.
She said getting the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination was a no-brainer.
“There’s so much going on when you’re a first-time mum and there’s information overload,” she said.
“For me it was really important to make sure that I had bub’s health at the top of my list.
“I know that as a mother, having the vaccination means I’m protected and also bub’s protected, but I think it is really, really important to make sure that those who are around bub in the first few weeks of life are also immunised.”
Ms Hall is in the minority when it comes to her views on immunisation – Queensland Health said only 34 per cent of pregnant women are getting their recommended vaccinations.
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) acting director of infectious diseases, Andrew Redmond, said Queensland is experiencing a spike in whooping cough cases.
So far this year, Dr Redmond said there had been more than 1,500 Queenslanders diagnosed.
Of those, 190 presented to the emergency department, up from 124 the same time last year.
“This year across the state we’ve had roughly a 50 per cent increase in diagnoses of whooping cough, which is really terrible news,” Dr Redmond said.
“[It is] an unexpected and unwanted rise.”
The condition causes severe respiratory problems and can be fatal for babies.
Dr Redmond said more education was needed to improve vaccination rates in pregnant women.
RBWH obstetric physician and director of women’s and newborn services, Karin Lust, said babies with whooping cough often got very sick with terrible coughing and reductions in their oxygen that could result in problems breathing and feeding.
“It’s very tragic for families and obviously it is awful to see your child unwell, it is very distressing,” she said.
Dr Lust said getting the vaccination while pregnant was the best protection, reducing the risk of infection by 90 per cent.
“Whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy boosts maternal antibodies, which are transferred to the foetus through the placenta, providing some immunity to the newborn baby until they can receive their first dose of vaccine around six weeks of age.”
The vaccination schedule changed recently, meaning expectant mothers can get vaccinated earlier, from 20 to 32 weeks.
“It gives women a greater window of opportunity to actually have their vaccination so that they don’t miss out on the protective benefits for their newborn baby,” Dr Lust said.
“Also, it actually will afford babies who are born premature a level of immunity as well.”