Whooping cough vaccinations will soon be available to pregnant women in Western Australia in a bid to protect newborn babies from the disease after the death of a four-week-old child this week.
Health Minister Kim Hames has told State Parliament a new program that would give women in their third trimester of pregnancy free vaccines would be rolled out in as little as two weeks.
The move comes in the wake of the death of Riley Hughes, who this week became the first child in WA to die from whooping cough since 2011.
Babies cannot be given vaccinations to prevent the disease in the first few weeks of their life, but significant medical evidence suggests by vaccinating women late in their pregnancy infants could be protected.
Dr Hames said the state was still awaiting final Commonwealth approval, which had been brought forward to expedite the rollout of the vaccines.
“They had been due to report at the end of June, but we have had conversations with them in the last few days and they have agreed to bring that forward to two weeks’ time,” he told Parliament.
“We are allocating funds … and have approved that vaccination going ahead.
“We will wait just for this two weeks until we get the official tick by that Commonwealth group to say it’s perfectly safe for us to do so and then we’ll roll out that program straight away.”
Dr Hames said he was confident the vaccinations were effective.
“This has already been in use overseas, particularly in Europe,” he said.
“It gives very good resistance in the first six weeks after a baby is born.”
Dr Hames said it was still critical that all people had whooping cough vaccinations, especially those who were around infants.