Pregnant women will be offered whooping cough vaccinations following a rise in
the number of newborns contracting the disease.
The vaccination will be given to women who are between 28 and 38 weeks’ pregnant during routine antenatal appointments. It is designed to boost a woman’s natural immunity for a short period of time to help protect the baby when it is first born. Normally, an infant would not be able to be immunised until two months after birth.
The DH has also issued a new leaflet informing pregnant women about the risks
associated with whooping cough.
According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), August saw the biggest monthly
increase of cases since the beginning of the year, with more than more than 1,200 reported.
Out of all the cases recorded so far this year, more than 300 have been in children aged 12 weeks or under – more than double the number reported in the same period of 2011. Out of all the infant cases reported, nine were fatal.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: “We have been very concerned about the continuing increase in whooping cough cases and related deaths. We welcome the urgent measure from the DH to minimise the harm from whooping cough, particularly in young infants, and we encourage all pregnant women to ensure they receive the vaccination to give their baby the best protection against whooping cough.
The RCM has also spoken out in support of the new immunisation programme. Louise Silverton, RCM deputy general secretary, said: ‘Whooping cough is on the increase among young babies and it can be a dangerous and potentially fatal infection.’
‘Having the vaccination will also help to stop the spread of the disease to other people. If any pregnant woman is unsure about this I would encourage them to speak to their midwife or doctor to discuss the issue.’