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It’s well known that immunisation protects our tamariki from some serious diseases. What is less well known is that wāhine can get immunised during pregnancy for whooping cough and the flu. This helps protect mum and pēpe from the harmful effects of these diseases.

Dr Pat Tuohy, the Ministry of Health’s Chief Advisor – Child and Youth Health, stresses the importance of immunisation during pregnancy.

Whooping cough can cause babies to become seriously ill, and can sometimes be deadly. And getting the flu when you are pregnant can be serious for both you and your baby. That’s why immunisations during pregnancy for whooping cough and the flu are recommended. It’s free and has a proven safety record.

Whooping cough and the flu are diseases are common in New Zealand. We have regular whooping cough outbreaks. In the 2010–2013 outbreak over 800 pēpe got whooping cough and two died. Often it’s passed to babies from adult whānau – parents or caregivers and grandparents. This is why the Ministry of Health recommends that other adults in close contact with babies are immunised against whooping cough – though these are not funded.

It is really important to protect babies when they are most vulnerable. Although babies receive immunisations against whooping cough, they don’t develop the best protection until after they have completed the third dose at 5 months. Immunisation during pregnancy can help protect pēpe during this time.

Getting the flu when you are pregnant can be serious for both you and your baby. Research has shown that pregnant women are five times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza-related complications than women who are not pregnant.

National Immunisation Week is on May 2 to-8 with the theme of ‘protecting baby starts in pregnancy’. Expectant mums are encouraged to enrol early with a midwife and GP, be immunised during pregnancy, and immunise pēpe on time.

‘Enrolling with a GP and midwife early in the pregnancy helps ensure mother and baby get the care they need,’ says Bronwen Pelvin, the Ministry of Health’s Principal Advisor – Maternity.

For more information on Immunisation, go to www.immunise.govt.nz, www.immune.org.nz, www.fightflu.co.nz or phone 0800 IMMUNE

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