Immunisation assessment is an extremely important aspect of healthcare during pregnancy. When planning a pregnancy, talk to your health care provider about any vaccines you might need beforehand. Live vaccines should be given at least a month before conception.
Influenza and pertussis vaccines are the only vaccines recommended for pregnant women. Influenza and pertussis vaccines protect the mother and provide passive antibodies to the newborn, protecting them in early infancy. They are provided for free via the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
Some other vaccines can be administered in special circumstances but are not routinely recommended. See the table “Vaccines that are not routinely recommended in pregnancy: inactivated bacterial vaccines” in the Australian Immunisation Handbook for further information.
Influenza vaccination in pregnancy is safe and strongly recommended in avoiding complications of influenza disease. It can be administered at any stage of pregnancy and not only aims to protect the expectant mother from disease, but also to provide protection to the infant once born.
Pregnant women are at greater risk of morbidity and mortality from influenza disease than non-pregnant women. They are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised with influenza disease as other people with influenza.
Babies less than 6-months of age are at greatest risk of disease and death from influenza and maternal vaccination will provide protection to babies for the first few months of life until they can be immunised against influenza from 6-months of age.
Pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation during pregnancy is a safe and effective way to protect the mother and prevent disease of the newborn. It is recommended that a single dose of the vaccine be administered between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, in every pregnancy, including pregnancies that are closely spaced.
Maternal antibodies against pertussis provide protection for babies until they have at least received 2 doses of their own pertussis containing vaccine (given at 6-weeks and 4-months of age). Babies less than 6-months of age are at greatest risk of severe disease and death from pertussis.
Which vaccines are contraindicated?
All live attenuated vaccines are contraindicated during pregnancy. In most circumstances the risk is hypothetical however there is insufficient evidence to ensure the safety of live vaccines during pregnancy. The limited safety data from inadvertent administration of live attenuated viral vaccines such as MMR and Varicella vaccines are reassuring.
See “Vaccination for women who are planning pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding” in the Australian Immunisation Handbook for further information.
Vaccines that are contraindicated in pregnancy: live attenuated vaccines:
BCG (tuberculosis) – (BCG [bacille Calmette-Guérin] vaccine)
Oral typhoid – (Vivotif Oral)
Japanese encephalitis – (Imojev)
MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) – (Priorix, MMRII)
MMRV (measles-mumps-rubella-varicella) – (Priorix-tetra, ProQuad)
Varicella (chickenpox) – (Varilrix, Varivax)
Zoster (herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles) – Zostavax
- ABC News report: ‘Antivaxxer’ tells of ‘nightmare’ after passing whooping cough onto baby daughter
- The Lancet: Evidence of maternal pertussis vaccine effectiveness in the United Kingdom
- Health Affairs (35) 2016, pages 309-316: Strategies to boost maternal immunization to achieve further gains in improved maternal and newborn health
- NCIRS Fact sheet: Vaccinations during pregnancy protect expectant mothers and their babies
Monash Health immunisation resources
- 2019 Patient Information sheet Influenza vaccine during pregnancy
- 2019 Patient information sheet Boostrix during pregnancy
- Patient information sheet Rubella Vaccine
Authors: Michelle Giles (Infectious Diseases Consultant, Monash Health) and Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Reviewed by: Georgina Lewis (SAEFVIC Clinical Manager, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Date: February 2020
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.