Little Riley Hughes, the four-week-old baby who died after contracting the highly contagious whooping cough Photo: FacebookBaby Riley’s mother who lost her infant son to whooping cough is shocked her antenatal health care advisers have not yet mentioned vaccination to her as she now enters the seventh month of a new pregnancy.

Catherine Hughes, who revealed she is expecting a girl, said it was the perfect time for her to have the whooping cough vaccination.

“If I had been offered that in my last pregnancy then my child would probably have survived,” she said.

“I’m still waiting for my antenatal health care providers to mention that vaccination can decrease the risk of severe pregnancy complications, stillbirth and premature birth.

“I’m still waiting for them to mention the importance of getting vaccinated against whooping cough, because it can kill newborn babies as it did my last.

“There has been not one word. Not one brochure. Just like last time,” Mrs Hughes said.

The expectant mother is in Sydney at the Pregnancy, Babies and Children’s Expo with a team of experts educating parents about the importance of immunisation.

“But is it the parents who need educating . . . or the healthcare providers?” she said and urged those in the health system to ensure that information flowed down to patients.

“If you are an antenatal health care provider, tell your patients about the importance of maternal immunisation,” Mrs Hughes said.

“It’s a method of prevention that can and does save lives.

“It shouldn’t be left to grieving families to stand up and be strong and raise awareness,” she said.

Mrs Hughes received messages of support and endorsement on her Facebook page “Light for Riley”.

“My daughter is four weeks old and I was not offered a whooping cough vaccination during my third trimester. It wasn’t ever mentioned during any antenatal visit. In fact, when I asked if my husband and I needed a booster, neither the doctors or nurses could tell me.Clearly the message isn’t reaching our health practitioners which I find disturbing.” – Jenn Davie.

“My newborn baby girl was taken ill with whooping cough as well. Not only was I not offered the whooping cough vaccination, but discharged from A&E three times as doctors misdiagnosed baby as having a cold and being cranky. Not knowing what to do, I planted myself in A&E and waited for a bad bout of coughing. Staff thought I was seeking attention and possibly suffering from depression. Eventually, she was rushed to the ward and put on oxygen therapy. All this could have been avoided with one vaccine.” – Noemie L-g.

“Protocol at my hospital is mentioning vaccines including flu and 3rd trimester whooping cough from the initial antenatal appointments and reminders at every other appointment. Pamphlets are also given for both at initial visit… Riley also gets a mention when we mention whooping cough vaccine as he and the work you’ve done was the reason our hospital has made offering these vaccines as part of our policy.” – Kadj Alaouie.

“At work today and I have just vaccinated a first time expectant mum at 30 weeks. I actively seek out the opportunity to inform all my patients of the importance of vaccination. This morning my patient and I discussed Riley and she has booked her husband in for tomorrow morning to get his shot too.” – Raechael Stoops.

Australian Medical Association (WA) president and obstetrician Michael Gannon said he was “gobsmacked” to hear of Mrs Hughes experience.

“I would certainly have expected her advisers to have their antennae up and be super sensitive to her needs,” he said.

“That kind of blockage of information delivery would certainly not be regarded as best practice,” he said.

Dr Gannon said pregnant mothers should be offered a seasonal (flu) immunisation between April-June and the whopping cough vaccination between weeks 28-32 of their pregnancy.

“It’s not appropriate to offer the whooping cough shot before that period, but I would have thought they would have been told the right time to have the vaccination,” he said.

“We need to reduce barriers to women being immunised. Critically, they must receive accurate and timely information from their care providers, be they

midwives, GPs or obstetricians.”

Dr Gannon said the process needed to include the facilitation of the injection.

“Simply handing patients a piece of paper and telling them to make an appointment to see their GP is not best practice,” he said.

“Some obstetricians, some public clinics and some private hospitals need to do better.”

Dr Gannon said in the past 12 months, tens of thousands of newborns had been protected by the vaccination program.

“The vast majority of whooping cough deaths occur in the first three months of life,” he said.

Most of the danger period is before a baby has their first routine vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age.”

A health department spokesman said WA Health recommended all pregnant women be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough) to protect themselves and their baby.

“In a survey of more than 400 mothers who recently delivered, 72 per cent reported they had been recommended by one or more providers (GP, midwife, and/or obstetrician) to get a pertussis vaccination,” he said.

“About 70 per cent of women reported receiving the vaccination.”

The spokesman said since WA Health started its pertussis program in March 2015, 19,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated.

“While these results are positive, there is always room for improvement,” he said.

“WA Health will continue its efforts to promote the importance of pertussis vaccinations.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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