From 8th April 2019 the Department of Health & Human Services is funding pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine for all pregnant women from 20 - 32 weeks gestation ideally to be given in every pregnancy. This provides two-for-one protection with the mother passing antibodies to the baby in utero.

The following groups will become eligible for free pertussis vaccine from 8th April 2019:

  • pregnant women from 20 - 32 weeks gestation during every pregnancy
  • partners of women who are at least 20 - 32 weeks pregnant if the partner has not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years
  • parents/guardians of babies born on or after 1 June 2015, if their baby is under six months of age and they have not received a pertussis booster in the last ten years.

The maximal risk of pertussis infection and severe morbidity is before infants are old enough to have received at least 2 vaccine doses. Around one in 200 infants under 6 months of age who are infected will die. Infants are most effectively protected by vaccinating their mothers during pregnancy. :

The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition, 2013 (Pertussis chapter revised March 2015) states that "vaccination is recommended with each pregnancy to provide maximal protection to every infant; this includes pregnancies which are closely spaced (e.g. <2 years)" The optimal time for vaccination is between 20 and 32 weeks. However, the vaccine can be given at any time during the third trimester up to delivery

Skin cleaning prior to vaccine injection

According to Australian Immunisation Handbook, provided the skin is visible clean, there is no need to wipe it with an antiseptic (e.g. alcohol wipe). If the immunisation service provider decides to clean the skin, or if the skin is visibly not clean, alcohol and other disinfecting agents must be allowed to dry before vaccine injection (to prevent inactivation of live vaccines and to reduce the likehood of irritation at the injection site).

For more information about this, please visit Australian Immunisation Handbook website, the link to this instruction can be found here.

The National Cervical Screening Program is changing. From 1 December 2017:

  • the Pap smear will be replaced with the more accurate Cervical Screening Test known as molecular testing for oncogenic Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • the time between tests will change from two to five years
  • the age at which screening starts will increase from 18 years to 25 years
  • women aged 70 to 74 years will be invited to have an exit test.

Women of any age who have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge and pain should see their Health Care Professional immediately.

HPV vaccinated women still require cervical screening as the HPV vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

A 2015-16 Australian Government Budget commitment provides funding to implement these recommended changes to the National Cervical Screening Program and establish a National Cancer Screening Register to support the new program.

The new program will commence from 1 December 2017 when the new Cervical Screening Test will become available on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. 

The changes to cervical screening test is due to better understanding of how cervical cancer developed. It is now known the HPV is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of this disease.