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Epilepsy and whooping cough vaccine
Pregnant women with epilepsy have been reassured there is no reason why they should not have the whooping cough vaccine to protect babies from an escalating outbreak of the illness.
Epilepsy Society’s head pharmacist, Janet Clark, says the vaccine should not interact with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) taken by pregnant women with epilepsy.
In a response to worried callers on Epilepsy Society’s Helpline, she added that occasionally seizures have occurred post vaccination. However these were not necessarily related to epilepsy but possibly to fever which can be a side effect of the vaccine.
Risk of seizure versus benefit of vaccine
The aim of the vaccine is to protect the unborn child, so women with epilepsy have to make a decision based on the risk of a seizure versus the benefit of the vaccine to her baby.
The whooping cough vaccine (Pertussis) works by boosting the mother’s defences, which are then passed onto the baby. Very young babies are at the greatest risk of serious complications from whooping cough and ten infants have already died in the UK this year.
Prof David Salisbury, the director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said: ‘We're boosting the mother to protect the baby. We can't protect babies until they are eight weeks, but their mothers can.’
Antibodies across the placenta
The mother's immune system should respond to the injection by producing whooping cough antibodies, which then cross the placenta into the developing child providing enough protection until the baby has its first routine vaccine.
Women are being advised to have the vaccine even if they have been vaccinated before, and to be vaccinated again during all subsequent pregnancies.
Anyone with concerns about pregnancy, epilepsy or AEDs should talk to their health care professional, call Epilepsy Society’s helpline on 01494 601 400.
Author: Angie King