Whooping cough vaccination in Pregnancy – A second look

A hot topic in the media and in my practice these days seems to be centred around the launch of the campaign to vaccinate pregnant women against whooping cough. I am receiving lots of enquiries and questions about this latest fashion in antenatal care.

Whooping cough, for those of us who have never seen it or really know what it ‘looks like’ is an illness that is typically found in children, though adults do experience it too. It is typified by a paroxysmal cough that is intermittent and characterized by a violent cough followed by a distinctive ‘whoop-ing’ sound. The cough, which is exhausting, can also be accompanied by vomiting of mucous. The symptoms, if left untreated, can continue on for up to three months. The illness is associated with the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Whooping cough is not generally considered to be fatal though it has been associated with deaths in very young infants (0-3 months of age).

So, now we know what we are talking about, right?! Here’s the current situation. In the past year in the UK, there have been ten deaths attributed to whooping cough in infants. I have not been able to track down whether or not these infants had already been immunized or not as there doesn’t seem to be any publicly-available record of their ages or their over-all state of health. It is an horrific and sorrowful thought that small children should succumb to such an illness, though it is considered too dangerous to vaccinate babies before two months of age: quite simply they do not have an immune system sufficiently well-developed to cope with the direct effects of the vaccine itself. The solution to the problem of vulnerable children under the age of two months is to vaccinate their mothers while they 28-38 weeks pregnant.


In the final months of development in utero, the lungs are developing and the organs are coming on-line in preparation for the new adventure.

For the most part, we as women strive to ensure our highest levels of self-care during our pregnancy. We eschew alcohol, take supplements, make sure we sleep as much as possible and see our mid-wives and doctors regularly. We quit smoking and may begin ante-natal yoga classes for relaxation and overall health. Books inform us that long-distance travel poses threats and that a calm mummy makes for a calm baby. It is confusing, therefore, that we find conventional medicine advocating the injection of Repevax (the trade name of the vaccine), which supposedly confers immunity from diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio. It is, in fact, a quadruple vaccine though we are only told about its application in view of pertussis (whooping cough) in its application in pregnant women. The pharmacological literature says that it is not recommended for children under three years of age or who have not received their first immunizations. It is a highly controversial vaccination even for it’s ‘target’ market and has been linked with many symptoms such as convulsions, brain damage, anaphylactic shock, among others. (DPT:A Shot in the Dark, B.L.Fischer and H.L. Coulter, 1985).

There is solid clinical evidence to suggest considerable risks and downsides to the pertussis vaccine in infants, and there is no evidence to suggest that this vaccine does ‘what it says on the label’. As happened with Thalidomide, women and their unborn children are once more being used as test cases for a theory.

“…the vaccine was judged to work less than three-quarters of the time (New England J Medicine, 1995; 333: 1045-50) and it was only 55 percent effective after two doses.” The Vaccination Bible, Ed. Lynne McTaggart, WDDTY 2000.

The other question that emerges in some of my conversations is, ‘why are we doing this?’ Are we, in effect, vaccinating to allay parents’ fear of whooping cough rather than because it is known actually to be effective?

By far the single most effective protection against childhood illness (and free at the point of delivery!) is breast milk. Breast feeding confers immunity through the mother’s own system for the most vulnerable months of our young lives: natural immunity that is adaptive in the way that artificial immunity is not. If the symptoms of whooping cough do develop, homoeopathy has a number of extremely well documented remedies to offer. Homoeopathy has been used to great effect for over 200 years providing safe, gentle AND effective healing, regardless of age..