Antenatal pertussis and flu vax coverage rising

2 minute read

But influenza vaccination is lagging behind, Australian research finds.

Vaccination against whooping cough and influenza is recommended for all pregnant women in Australia, but in a five-year, retrospective study of around 175,000 births in NSW from 2016-2020, just under 40% of expectant mothers were immunised against both (43% for pertussis and 66%).

During that time, reported coverage actually increased for both. Influenza vaccination went up from 27% to 59%, and 43% to 79% for pertussis. Total coverage increased from less than 20% in 2016 to 54% by 2020.

Total coverage was higher for those who received antenatal care through shared care (28%), a midwife (5%) or an obstetrician (29%) than for those who attended a public hospital.

Women were less likely to be vaccinated if they were aged 30 or under, with the rate for under-21s 8-14% lower than for 30-34 year olds. Immunisation against both illnesses was also 10% less likely for those who were born in Australia or New Zealand than women born in other English speaking countries and 4% less likely than those from non-English speaking countries, had been pregnant before (16%), did not access antenatal care until the second trimester (11% lower than first) or third (26%), smoked (17%), had high blood pressure or a BMI of 25 or higher (both 2% lower than otherwise).

Women from a lower socioeconomic background were less likely to have both vaccines, and the poorest were 7% less likely than the most well off to have the influenza vaccination but slightly more likely to have the pertussis shot. Those who lived in remote areas were 15% more likely than metro women to have had the flu shot.

Pertussis vaccination rates could be higher than influenza because pregnant women perceive risk of whooping cough to be higher for their baby, rather than themselves, or because the flu vaccine is seasonally promoted, the authors suggested.

“Evidence based interventions such as recommendations from health care provider highlighting the benefits and risks associated with maternal vaccination, systems-based approaches such as standing orders or a dedicated immunisation service, and continued awareness raising the education of mothers during each antenatal visit may improve uptake of influenza and pertussis vaccine during pregnancy,” they concluded.

Vaccine 2023, Online 21 September

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