A new program rolled out by the Alberta government last month aims to protect infants before they’ve taken their first breath.
As of Jan. 1, the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (dTap) vaccine is free for all pregnant women across the province.
“That protects against whooping cough,” explained Dr. Kristin Klein, Deputy Medical Officer of Health. “And we are now offering this vaccine to every pregnant woman in Alberta, to be able to protect infants after they’re born from this serious, potentially fatal infection.”
The vaccination also is shown to protect against tetanus and diphtheria, but whooping cough is the main focus as it is highly contagious. The infection can also lead to pneumonia and death, and babies are at the highest risk.
“Infants less than one year of age are at the highest risk of having to be hospitalized because of their infection or potentially dying,” Klein said.
That mainly includes infants under two months, as they cannot be vaccinated before that age. In the last decade, there have been 60 cases reported in that age range. Three were fatal. The infection also affects older infants, children and adults every year.
Pregnant women can visit any Alberta Health Services public health clinic or a local pharmacy.
Those looking to get the dTap vaccine at their pharmacy will need a prescription. Tests across North America and the U.K. show there is no risk to the mother or baby.
“There haven’t been any issues related to safety in either the mother or the infant when given this vaccine,” said Klein.
“So we believe it’s safe, and we know that it’s effective in preventing pertussis in infants when they’re young and vulnerable and unable to get the vaccines themselves.”
If you’re expecting, you can find clinics where the vaccine is available at Alberta Health Services’ website.