5 April 2023
NZ College of Midwives Chief Executive, Alison Eddy, says midwives have been very saddened by the recent tragic deaths of three pēpi from whooping cough and calls on Te Whatu Ora to strengthen its focus on immunisation during pregnancy as the first point of protection for babies.
“We know what needs to be done to improve outcomes for babies. Protecting babies from whooping cough starts with maternal immunisation during pregnancy. Te Whatu Ora needs to implement a systematic approach to vaccination during pregnancy including co-ordination, resourcing and data collection. It’s great to see better accessibility with pharmacies providing free whooping cough and flu immunisations to pregnant women and people, but we also need more public health promotion to raise awareness,” she says.
“Having a whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy protects pēpi (baby) in their first weeks of life before they can receive their first infant immunisations, as the immunity to whooping cough passes through the placenta to the unborn baby. Additionally, it protects pregnant women from catching whooping cough and it reduces the chance of them passing whooping cough to a newborn,” says Ms Eddy.
Whooping cough immunisation is safe and available free during pregnancy. The College recommends getting vaccinated from 16 weeks of pregnancy and up to 2 weeks before birth. It is also important for pregnant women to be vaccinated against influenza during flu season, and Covid-19 if you’re due for that vaccination.
The College notes that in response to the recent deaths, a Pertussis Taskforce has been established however Alison Eddy says there are a number of simple things that could be done immediately to help improve outcomes for babies.
“A simple solution could be for midwives to provide immunisations during pregnancy. Midwives are qualified to prescribe and administer vaccines, but not currently resourced to do so,” she says.
Immunisation during pregnancy has not been adequately prioritised at a system level. The College says developing and establishing a dedicated pregnancy vaccination strategy and public awareness campaign are essential as part of the broader immunisation programme.
The College of Midwives would like to also see improved data collection of vaccination in pregnancy.
”System-wide there has never been good data collection or reporting on maternal vaccination. In fact during the Covid pandemic, there was no information gathered on pregnant women at all,” says Ms Eddy. “Data collection and reporting ensures we know how well the system is delivering and helps target resources where they are needed.”
-Ends- Please contact Ali Jones on 0272473112 for more information.