Firstly, the whooping cough vaccine needs to be offered to every woman during pregnancy.
While Riley lay dying in hospital, I discovered that many women around the world were having a vaccination in their third trimester to protect their newborn from contracting whooping cough. Yet throughout my pregnancy, the whooping cough vaccine was never once mentioned to me. It has been a recommendation in Australia since 2013, but in Western Australia where I live, most pregnant women were not offered it. Studies have shown that babies born to a mother who received this pregnancy vaccination were 90% less likely to contract this terrible disease, and I truly believe that if I had been offered this vaccination, Riley may still be here today. I think a clear message needs to go out to all parents – ‘Childhood vaccination begins in pregnancy’.
Secondly, greater education is needed to improve “Community Immunity”
Many adults do not realise that the whooping cough vaccination they had as a child has probably worn off, and that whooping cough boosters are required every 5-10 years. While we hope a longer-lasting vaccine is created one day, in the mean-time there needs to be more education in our communities about the need for adult boosters.
The other thing affecting our “community immunity” are parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated. There are so many factors that contribute to vaccine refusal in our society – from conspiracy theory beliefs, to people concerned about possible (yet highly improbable) side effects, to people who believe anything “natural” is good and that anything “unnatural” is bad. Due to the success of vaccination and our excellent healthcare system, we are not regularly confronted with the diseases that vaccinations protect us from. I think this makes it easier for us to become complacent and forget just how important these vaccines are. I don’t think there is one simple solution to fix this issue, but I do think educating school-children about vaccination & vaccine-preventable diseases could be a positive step.