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Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination for pregnant women

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Pertussis (whooping cough) is a notifiable disease. 

Pertussis is a highly infectious respiratory disease, caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. This vaccine preventable disease can cause serious illness and death, especially in infants under 6 months of age. Complications of pertussis include bronchopneumonia, repeated vomiting leading to weight loss and cerebral hypoxia during paroxysms of coughing, which can lead to brain damage. The organism is spread by direct contact or airborne respiratory droplets and has an incubation period of 6 to 20 days. 

The pertussis vaccination was introduced into the maternal immunisation programme in 2012. Since its introduction, the vaccine has been very effective in protecting infants against this serious illness, until they can have their first routine childhood vaccination at two months of age. The vaccine protects infants through intrauterine transfer of maternal antibodies. The vaccine also protects the mother from getting pertussis and lowers the risk of the mother passing it on to their baby. The pertussis vaccination has been very effective in protecting infants against this serious illness, until they can have their first routine childhood vaccination at two months of age.   



The pertussis vaccine is offered to all pregnant women from 16 weeks of pregnancy. It is ideally offered between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy to maximise the likelihood the baby will be protected from birth.  The vaccine can be given after 32 weeks, but as the body needs time to make antibodies to be passed on to the unborn baby, it may not give the baby the same level of protection. Pregnant women require vaccination in each pregnancy.  

Women who did not receive the pertussis vaccine in their pregnancy can still receive it in the 2 months following birth (until the child receives their first dose of pertussis containing vaccine). This will protect the woman and may prevent her from becoming a source of infection for the baby, although it will not provide direct protection of the baby. There is no evidence of risk from vaccinating breast-feeding women with the pertussis vaccine.  

The pertussis vaccine in pregnancy is given as part of a combined product; diphtheria/ tetanus/ acellular pertussis/ inactivated polio vaccine (dTaP/IPV). There is no monovalent pertussis vaccine available. This product contains a lower dose of pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus vaccines than is given in the childhood vaccination schedule. It is inactivated (not a live vaccine) and is thiomersal-free. As inactivated vaccine contain no live organisms, they cannot replicate and cannot cause infection to the mother or the foetus. The vaccines are highly effective and have excellent safety records. 

The pertussis vaccination is also offered to all babies as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule (“6-in-1” vaccine”).  

The Complete Routine Immunisation Schedule (PDF) includes information about routine and non-routine vaccinations. 

Healthcare workers can be an important source of infection to vulnerable infants. Healthcare workers, with direct contact with pregnant women or infants, who have not received a pertussis-containing vaccine in the last 5 years, are eligible for a pertussis containing vaccine as part of their occupational health care.   

Summary of product characteristics Home - electronic medicines compendium (emc)

Schedule guidance in the Green Book chapter 24  supersedes the SmPC. 



Vaccination programme recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Welsh Government policy can be found at the links below. 

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - GOV.UK (read JCVI publications and statements:  search e.g., pertussis) 

Welsh Health Circulars and Welsh Government letters 


Training resources and events 

Online courses and training materials about a number of vaccines and diseases can be accessed via the E-learning page. 

Further immunisation training information and resources are provided on the Training Resources and Events page. 


Clinical resources and information 

Patient group directions (PGDs) and protocols 

PGD templates for vaccines can be found on the Patient group directions (PGDs) and protocols page.  

Further clinical resources and information 


Data and surveillance 

Vaccination surveillance information can be found on the pages below: