Dear Pregnant Mums: the Whooping Cough vaccine is safe and effective for you to receive during pregnancy.

We are told to avoid many things during pregnancy: soft cheeses, raw fish and seafood, unprocessed dairy and most medications. But the whooping cough vaccine is safe during pregnancy.  And it could potentially save your newborn baby’s life.

Q. Why should you get a pertussis booster during pregnancy?
A. So you don’t catch the disease and pass it to your baby at birth.  So that your baby will be born with active immunity to whooping cough.

Pertussis during pregnancy is extremely inconvenient and risky.   A pregnancy booster will provide both mother and baby with antibody protection.

Whooping cough is rife in our communities, and newborn babies are most vulnerable, most at risk to fatal pertussis.  If you get the vaccine in the recommended time-frame; during the last trimester of your pregnancy, you will produce antibodies to pertussis which can cross the placenta to your unborn baby whilst they are still in the womb.  You will also ensure the early appearance of pertussis fighting antibodies in your breast milk.

The placentally transferred antibodies will remain active inside your newborn baby’s bloodstream until they are around 6 to 8 weeks old – providing them with a fighting chance against the disease until they are due for their very own first immunisation against pertussis.  The breastmilk antibodies will help top up the pertussis fighting immunity during this time.

Q.  I plan to breastfeed my baby.  If I have the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, will my baby still need their first vaccine?
A.  Yes.  Breastfeeding alone will not protect or prevent pertussis in your baby.  Also, breastfeeding does not increase the length of time that passive immunity (antibodies passed from mother to baby via the placenta) will protect the baby.  It won’t interfere with it either.

Vaccinating during pregnancy effectively closes the 6 week vulnerability window.  This is the time when babies can contract whooping cough and are most at risk of suffering, hospitalisation, complications and death.   Whooping cough deaths occur almost exclusively in babies under 3 months of age, with the majority of deaths in babies under 8 weeks old – babies  too young to be immunised.


Latest figures from the UK show that 2-4  out of 100 newborns under 3 months old who contract the disease will die.

Q. At what stage of pregnancy is recommended to receive the vaccine?
A. 27 to 36 weeks gestation. This is recommended by several countries across the world such as  Australia,  NZ, the US  and the UK.

Every state in Australia now recommends a whooping cough vaccine booster for pregnant women.  Previously, babies had been given the vaccine at six weeks, four months and six months, but research suggests that a booster given in the last ­trimester of pregnancy may offer the best protection for newborns.

Q. Is the shot safe?
A. Yes it is. Read more about that below.

Q. Is it effective?
A. Yes, it has been proven to produce antibodies during pregnancy which are directly transferred to your baby.  Read more below.

Q. Why not get it after pregnancy?
A. It may be too late.  If your baby contracts whooping cough in the first few weeks of life, they will be without protection.

Q. Why not get it before pregnancy?
A. It is a good idea to be boosted against pertussis before a pregnancy is planned. However, it is difficult to time pregnancy perfectly, and whooping cough antibodies only last so long. If you have not had a recent immunisation or illness, there may not be any immunity for you to transfer.  This is why it is advised during the last weeks of pregnancy – so that you pass a high level of active antibodies to your unborn child.

Pregnancy vaccination is the preferred alternative to postpartum vaccination for preventing infant pertussis.

It’s already recommended by the CDC in the USA and the NHS in the UK.

Its safety is proven here,  here and here.

The last link above is a very large and recent observational study from the UK.  It shows that women who have received pertussis vaccination in the third trimester are not at any increased risk of maternal or neonatal death, stillbirth, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, haemorrhage, foetal distress, uterine rupture, placenta or vasa praevia, caesarean delivery, low birth rate, neonatal renal failure or any other serious event that can occur naturally during pregnancy.

The pertussis pregnancy booster is also very effective. It ensures that newborns are born with protective pertussis antibodies as shown here and here.

The Cocooning strategy, which involved vaccinating all of the household members around the pregnant mum (but not the pregnant mum) for the purpose of providing a ring of protection around a newborn too young to be immunised, was not entirely effective.

Transmission rates within the household are high, especially for mothers passing the illness on to their children. Therefore, making sure all pregnant women are vaccinated before their baby arrives would, according to calculations, cut the risk in half that a baby would contract pertussis.  70 to 100% of people living in the same house as a person with whooping cough are usually infected.  The evidence for sibling (and other household members) vaccination, though weaker, still points to the value of overall cocooning.

This study outlines the most important reason to get vaccinated from the perspective of preventing deaths.

Essentially, to prevent deaths we need to protect the babies who are too young for the vaccine but at risk of contracting the disease in the birth to 6 week old vulnerability period.

So, whilst cocooning is effective, nothing beats providing the newborn with direct immunity than vaccinating the mother antenatally.

I know what I would do. Get that pregnancy booster like my newborn’s life depended on it.


Thanks for nothing, Gianelloni Family.

Your latest blog is crazy full of myths and misunderstandings about vaccines and measles.

1. It’s really not funny to mock a disease outbreak, especially one which is mostly affecting young babies and children.  How do you find humour in a virus that can sicken and disable the body’s defence systems to attack the brain?

Measles can kill quickly or it can kill slowly over many years.  This is why we take it seriously enough to vaccinate against it. Playing it down as if it is some innocent disease of childhood is worshipping the suffering of children. You find that funny, really?

2. The Daily Beast article which you focus on sources this newspaper story.   Your first error is in mocking the description of an outbreak being a mere 3 cases.

Take note:  the newspaper story actually says 3 MORE CASES of measles, not 3 cases.  If there were 5 hospitalizations, you can be damn sure there are many more than 3 cases.

So I looked it up for you.  As of 3 days ago, according to this Slate article there were 19 cases (and probably still counting).

Did you note this line in the article: “Many of the victims are children too young to be vaccinated or whose parents chose not to vaccinate them.”  Do you find that funny too?  

Irrespectively, an outbreak is defined as 3 or more cases linked in time or place.  In this case, if a person infected with measles occupies an area and then leaves, the air and surfaces can harbor the virus for up to 4 more hours, so anyone passing through that area can get infected.  Your unvaccinated child could pass through a shopping mall where an infected person had shopped hours ago, and still catch measles from breathing the air.

It really does only take a few cases to start an avalanche of cases.  90% of people who are not immune to measles will become infected if exposed, so the CDC is completely on point to declare that 3 or more cases is an outbreak.

3. So an outbreak can start out with 3 people, it could grow to be 1000 people.  But one thing is for sure and certain, if the anti-vaccine movement is allowed to grow, a measles outbreak will quickly spread amongst the unvaccinated and has the potential to hospitalize many and even kill some.

Consider the 2013 measles outbreaks in the US:   Out of 159 cases, how many were unvaccinated?  82%.  Plus another 9% had unknown vaccination status (which generally means unvaccinated).

So again we see that word. Unvaccinated. Still finding this funny?

4. By the way, you can’t catch measles from the vaccine.  Recently vaccinated persons are not disease spreading vectors as you assume.

Theoretically, any live virus vaccine can shed, but the MMR vaccine has NEVER been known to cause measles disease in another person.  Did that sink in? You cannot catch measles from the vaccine. So those measles cases which came from the doctors office were spread from a person infected and sick with wild measles.   An infected person or persons had been in the doctors office.  (Remember in 2008, how measles spread from Dr Sears waiting room?)

The idea that those vaccinated with MMR could be spreading measles is a ludicrous lie with no scientific or medical basis whatsoever.   The unvaccinated are actually responsible for outbreaks – indeed almost every outbreak in recent years has been linked to an unvaccinated person bringing in measles from overseas.

5.  So, measles was eliminated from America and many other developed countries but is now making a comeback thanks to mostly unvaccinated travellers who return and spread it largely amongst the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.  The most important cause of measles resurgence is low vaccination coverage.  So again, whose kids are more at risk?  Not only your unvaccinated kid but the kid next door with leukaemia who can’t be vaccinated.  This is getting funnier and funnier, really isn’t it?

6.  “Funny how we just can’t seem to eliminate measles within the United States”.   But yet they were eliminated, in fact they still are.  When the CDC says “eliminated”, they mean from endemic transmission.  Endemic meaning, regularly found in a certain area; native or restricted to that certain place.  Endemic transmission still no longer occurs – transmission is because of imported cases.   So what you are finding funny, is that measles is back thanks to unvaccinated people bringing it into the country from overseas.

Yes,  one booster was added to the vaccination schedule – thanks to continual monitoring, via those important things you mentioned:  Research. Statistics. Science. Logic.  It was determined that an additional booster was needed to ensure immunity was longer lasting.  So what’s the big deal?  You actually find science, research, statistics and logic funny too?  The irony of your whole argument is that the MMR is one of the most effective vaccines in terms of duration of immunity.

Vaccine immunity duration

7.  Measles can be deadly serious and Gianelloni Family wants to compare it to the common cold.  Her quote from Dr Mendelsohn explaining an adjusted rate of measles complications for developed nations has no basis.  In fact it cannot be found anywhere other than  Groan.  It needs to be said that Mendelsohn is widely regarded as a renegade quack.  So who are you going to put faith in – one renegade doctor’s stab-in-the-dark made up statistics; or the CDC, the WHO and every other major health body around the world who actually do public health surveillance and can verify their statistics?

Here are the real statistics:  30% of persons who catch measles will have severe complications.  1-2 out of 1000 will die.  The risk of encephalitis from measles is 1 in 1000. Anywhere from 4 to 18 people out of 100 000 will get the fatal disease SSPE many years after infection.  This is in DEVELOPED nations.  

8.  Gianelloni Family states that “1 in 50 kids with autism suffer from inflammation of the brain and the MMR vaccine package insert for the measles vaccine actually lists inflammation of the brain as a side effect from the vaccine. Go read the package insert. It’s called encephalitis. Caused by the measles vaccine. Not caused by the natural measles virus.”

It is beyond ridiculous that she claims encephalitis is not caused by the natural measles virus when it is a well-known and established consequence of the disease. She also tries to muddy MMR vaccine, inflammation and autism. Firstly, autism is not encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).   Secondly,  MMR vaccine does not cause autism.

Encephalitis has been reported approximately once for every 3 million doses of MMR vaccine.  In no case has it been shown conclusively that encephalitis was caused by a vaccine virus infection of the central nervous system. And to re-iterate, encephalitis is not autism.  Also,  the vaccine protects against SSPE, it cannot cause it.  Go re-read the package insert.  It does not say anywhere on there that the measles vaccine causes autism.  Perpetuating this myth is really funny to you as well, I guess?


Seeking literal meaning through the package insert is an exercise fraught with inevitable misinterpretation.  This article clearly explains the myths surrounding package inserts.

And, there are over 100 scientific papers indexed on PubMed that thoroughly debunk the vaccines-autism myth.

9. According to the CDC around 1 -2 deaths will occur for every 1000 cases of measles in the developed world.

This quote is pure fabrication:  “Data shows that one-third to one-half of the millions of deaths in children across the world, caused by measles, are due to undernutrition, not undervaccination”

It cannot be found anywhere apart from the Gianelloni family’s own blog.  Now, I bet she finds making stuff up funny too.  But I don’t.  When it comes to children’s lives,  I find twisted quotes to be drop dead serious.

So I took the liberty of finding the real quote which she butchered and made it sound like something else entirely:

“Pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition are the primary killers of children in the developing world.  Measles, killed over 500,000 children in 2003, more than any other vaccine-preventable disease. The measles death toll in Africa is so high – every minute one child dies – that many mothers don’t give children real names until they have survived the disease. Measles weakens the immune system and renders children very susceptible to fatal complications from diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition”

So, the upshot of that is, measles is deadly and so are complications of measles.   Measles leads to complications. Malnutrition does not lead to contracting measles.  If there is no measles around, there are no complications of measles to die from.  Let’s take a look at how funny those measles deaths in developing countries really are:

“Immunization activities have had a major impact on reducing measles deaths. Since 2000, more than one billion children in high risk countries were vaccinated against the disease through mass vaccination campaigns ― about 145 million of them in 2012. Global measles deaths have decreased by 78% from an estimated 562 400 to 122 000”.

Laugh out loud funny, isn’t it,  Gianelloni Family?

10.  Gianelloni Family thinks that Big Pharma has created the anti-vaccine movement.  Interesting.  The public health cost of measles is actually far greater than the vaccine cost.  So how exactly is Big Pharma profiting from prevention?  Funny, much?


11.  How are unvaccinated children a threat, she asks?  Dr Larry Palevsky – who believes that getting sick is a good thing because those oh-so-helpful viruses and bacteria are assisting you with a ‘toxin purging opportunity’ –  is another quack.  But she will keep finding the lone wolf doctor with a crazy view, as if that’s the view of every expert on the planet.  Doctors who don’t believe in vaccination are in the extreme minority.

Here is why unvaccinated children are a threat:

Why is MY unvaccinated kid a threat?

Gianelloni Family deeply misunderstands (or misrepresents) community immunity (or herd immunity), a scientific principle accepted by virtually every scientist on the planet.  Any parent who honestly wants to understand the issue of why they may be endangering others by not vaccinating should read the book “Deadly Choices”.  Review of it here.   It goes into great detail about how when vaccination rates drop, rates of disease goes up.  Immunity from  measles vaccine, if given according to the vaccination schedule, lasts well into adulthood.  If everyone who CAN vaccinate DOES vaccinate,  that’s enough to ensure lifelong immunity.

12.  Dear Pharma, she says: “You created an entire generation of sick children.”  Erm, how?  Citation, please? For all of the erroneous claims that vaccines cause x, y, or z problem (SIDS, allergies, autoimmune diseases like MS or type 1 diabetes, autism, etc.) there have been many major studies conducted which found  no association with vaccines. This is one of the most common lies of the anti-vax movement – that somehow we are causing an epidemic of chronic illness because of vaccines.   Really, nothing else in our lives has changed apart from the vaccination schedule?  Every large well-designed study has found that there is no increased incidence of autism, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or allergies because of vaccination. 

Dear Gianelloni Family.  Wake up.  Wake the hell up and stop making excuses for why you are sheltering under the protection of herd immunity.  You’re not fooling anyone.   You are not an expert in infectious disease, epidemiology, immunology, virology, or any of the other myriad disciplines that come together to forge the basis of the science of vaccination. To accept your erroneous claims against the weight of hundreds of thousands of experts in these fields who have produced study upon study, does indeed put everyone at great risk, including your own children.