Just 13% of pregnant women have accepted the offer of a free
whooping cough vaccine, figures released by the Ministry of
In the South, about 19% of pregnant women had had the vaccine
since the start of last year, when it was introduced to
combat the whooping cough epidemic.
Nationally, more than 9200 women had the free vaccine, up to
the end of last month.
Figures were released to the Otago Daily Times after
comments at a Southern District Health Board public health
committee last week about the problem of low uptake.
Speaking to the committee, public health physician Dr Keith
Reid attributed low uptake to a ''deeply ingrained culture''
that a woman was ''inviolable'' during pregnancy.
Vaccination in pregnancy was safe, but it took time to
''break down that culture'' that suggested it might not be a
''It's a bit of an uphill battle,'' Dr Reid said.
A statement from the Ministry of Health said the most
effective way to protect babies before they could be
immunised themselves was to vaccinate the mother so
antibodies are passed to the baby.
''There is considerable effort made to ensure health
professionals are reminding prospective parents about
''The vaccine offer to pregnant women at no cost remains in
place while the outbreak continues. Once the outbreak ends,
the initiative will be reviewed,'' the statement said.
Since the epidemic started in August 2011, New Zealand had
had more than 11,200 reported cases, the ministry's website
Vaccination sceptic Hilary Butler, of Auckland, believed a
maternal instinct to reject vaccination in pregnancy was a
Her own objection to vaccines was based on published
research, she said, but there was a role for instinct and it
should not be dismissed.
''Instinct isn't silly; it's there for a good reason.''
Triggering a woman's immune system in pregnancy was contrary
to the natural suppression of the immune system during that
time, Mrs Butler said.