The temporary vaccination programme for pregnant women was announced in October 2012, following a nationwide whooping cough outbreak that led to several infant deaths. The recommendation to extend the programme follows the publication of new research by Public Health England (PHE) and the MHRA showing the effectiveness and safety of maternal vaccination in protecting infants from the disease.
In an analysis published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases of laboratory-confirmed cases and hospital admissions for pertussis in infants between January 2008 and September 2013, PHE researchers report that babies born to women vaccinated at least a week before delivery had a 91% reduced risk of becoming ill with whooping cough in their first weeks of life, compared to babies whose mothers had not been vaccinated.
The MHRA reviewed the safety of pertussis vaccination in pregnancy using data on nearly 18,000 vaccinated women obtained from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. The findings, published in the BMJ, indicated no evidence of risk to pregnancy or the developing baby. Rates of normal, healthy births were similar to those seen in unvaccinated women.
The dTaP/IPV vaccine recommended for use in the maternal vaccination programme recently changed from Repevax to Boostrix-IPV. A single dose should be given between weeks 28 and 38 of pregnancy (ideally during weeks 28–32) to protect babies until they receive their first routine whooping cough vaccination at 2 months of age.