‘No Vax, No Visit’? If mum was vaccinated baby is already protected against whooping cough.

NO VAX, NO VISIT! Our baby girl is due in four weeks. We can’t wait to meet her! If you would like to meet her, we ask that you ask your doctor for a whooping cough booster this week. Our daughter can’t receive her first vaccination until she’s six weeks old, so relies on us to keep her safe from germs. #NoVaxNoVisit

Have you seen these requests in your social media feeds recently?

No Vax, No Visit is a movement being propagated through social media and social pressure. Expectant parents are demanding that all visitors who wish to visit their newborn are recently vaccinated against whooping cough. If visitors can’t prove they’re vaccinated, they’re refused permission to visit the baby in hospital or at home until after the newborn’s two-month vaccination (which can be given at six weeks).

It is understandable that prospective parents, aware of how devastating whooping cough can be, want to leave no stone unturned to protect their baby. But is it supported by the best evidence?

No Vax, No Visit is an unofficial extension of the “cocooning” strategy, recommended by the Australian Immunisation Handbook since 2003.

The official cocooning recommendation is to vaccinate regular household contacts if they haven’t had a whooping cough booster within the last ten years. This strategy targets parents, siblings, grandparents and anyone who is in regular contact with babies, as they are the most common sources of infection in newborns.

The cocooning recommendation doesn’t mean that anyone who comes through the front door to visit and say a quick hello must be vaccinated. It doesn’t mean regular household contacts need to be vaccinated for every child born within those ten years.

Although the idea of creating a “cocoon” of protection around babies is attractive, this approach has limitations. And eliminating all possible sources of whooping cough this way just isn’t possible.

So, what should parents do?

Evidence became available in 2014 that showed if mums are vaccinated during pregnancy, the vaccine is 91% effective in preventing severe whooping cough in very young infants.

When a mum is vaccinated during pregnancy, the protective antibodies travel across the placenta and into the baby. It’s essentially a baby’s first vaccine, so the baby is born with an army of antibodies ready for defence.

Contrary to the American vaccine insert, many studies, such as this one, have actually tested the vaccine on tens of thousands of pregnant women. The studies demonstrate how effective and safe this is for pregnant mums and their unborn child. Subsequently, in March 2015, the Australian Immunisation Handbook began recommending that women who are between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant receive a whooping cough booster for each pregnancy.

If mums follow this pregnancy recommendation, the vaccination of all visitors (in addition to regular household contacts) could theoretically offer a small amount of additional protection for the baby. However, there’s no evidence to say this is the case. The person more likely to benefit is the one receiving the vaccination, particularly if they are elderly.

Social consequences

Important things to consider with No Vax, No Visit are the unintended social consequences.

While some parents will find their family and friends are happy to be vaccinated, we are also hearing stories of isolation of new parents, division in social groups, and guilt of friends feeling irresponsible. Some new parents are even too scared to take their baby to the “disease-riddled” shopping centre, school or playground.

What seems to be forgotten is the high level of protection the baby already has if mum was vaccinated while pregnant.

While there’s no evidence that No Vax, No Visit will offer any additional protection for the newborn, there is evidence that social isolation can lead to postnatal depression. This is particularly important when we consider one in seven new mothers in Australia experiences postnatal depression.

Support for new parents is most needed during the newborn’s first few weeks of life. If new parents don’t have any visitors and are too scared to go out into the world with their newborn, what effect will this have on the family’s wellbeing?

So, what else can parents do to protect their newborn before the six-week vaccination if mum was vaccinated during pregnancy, and dad, siblings and grandparents are all up to date with their vaccines? Ask visitors to postpone their visit if they are sick, and hand-washing before cuddles is essential.

With all this in place, there’s little or no extra benefit from No Vax, No Visit.

The ConversationShare your comments below.

Samantha Carlson, Social Science Research Officer for the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, University of Sydney; Kerrie Wiley, Research Fellow, National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance, and School of Public Health, University of Sydney, and Peter Bruce McIntyre, Professor and Director for the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Main image stock photo

  • I had my children in Northern Ireland. I never was advised to take a whooping cough booster.
    Think it’s natural to take it a bit easy with new born baby’s and ask family and friends who’re sick or having a cold to keep distance. Hospitals are known to be great sources of all kind of viruses and bacteria…not the best place to be for newborns.


  • Back when I was a baby, mothers were recommended to stay at home and not go out much with the baby. I guess this was to diminish how much contact they had with the general population. These days, I see very new babies out with their parents in shopping centres. I guess it’s comforting to know that if they’ve had their whooping cough booster in pregnancy, bub is 90% covered but why risk it. Stay at home with bub for a bit, settle into having a baby, have friends and family over that have been vaccinated.


  • The rules are always changing.
    I personally dont know of anyone who has asked this.
    it will be interesting to see if my daughters ask this when their turn to have children comes around.


  • I think family and friennds that care will vaccinate


  • I didn’t want to go anywhere for the first couple of weeks and was happy not to have visitors. Baby git some cover through ne having the immunisations during pregnancy and any visitors knew not to come if they were sick at all. Everyone washed hands prior to touching baby anyway. It could very well increase chance of pnd by isolating one self in my opinion. I prefer my own company / being alone with baby often to bond


  • i was vaccinated and so was hubby while i was pregnant. I agree, so long as those close to you are vaccinated and anyone that is sick stays away you are mostly covered. In the first 6 weeks you go out and do visit, but you do tend to stay home mostly to get into routine and recover and spend quality family time. Its such a shame to hear of cases of babies contracting viruses


  • I completely understand the parents wishes…but I take it that for the 6 weeks they are not leaving home? Not going to the shops with baby etc?


  • If visitors are infected it isn’t just you and your baby there are other patients in the hospital too. Not just Whooping Cough but really bad viruses too. I personally know of a couple who had a premature baby boy who was almost ready to go home from hospital. He caught a virus that went through the nursery and died within 24 hours. The general public should not be allowed into the confines of a nursery with premature babies in it. They were allowing everybody in, not just immediate family.

    • This is so sad. With premature the risk is even greater indeed.


  • Some people might find it easier to ask everyone rather than “pick out” select people.


  • I think pregnant women should be vaccinated as a way of protecting the baby, but I also think it’s up to parents to decide what’s best for their child.


  • I think as long as the babies parents/caregivers and those who are in constant contact with them need to be vaccinated then the baby should be safe. We did this with our kids and touch wood they were fine.


  • I think that such a rule could create some problems. What do you do? For 6 weeks you don’t bring your baby outside? Because everyone outside could potentially transmit whooping cough to your child. If a vaccination during pregnancy protects the baby up to 91% of the risk, I would try to make all pregnant women aware of that. That would be my priority. But yes, difficult to decide what is best.


  • I think it’s up to the parents as to how far they take things. My son and his partner were both vaccinated when pregnant. We visited not long after the birth and aren’t vaccinated. I feel so bad about that, thank god Bub wasn’t infected with anything. My daughter in law works in child care so her immune system for most child hood bugs is pretty good


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