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28.09.12

Whooping cough vaccination offered to pregnant women

Pregnant women are to be offered the whooping cough vaccination, following a rise in the number of cases in young babies.

The chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has announced a temporary vaccination programme, which aims to boost short-term immunity passed on from pregnant women to their newborn babies who cannot normally be vaccinated until they are two months old.

She said: “Whooping cough is highly contagious and newborns are particularly vulnerable. 9 infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under 3 months old.

“It’s vital that babies are protected from the day they are born – that’s why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women.”

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show a large increase in cases of whooping cough, From January to August this year 4,791 cases were reported in all ages; a significant increase on 1,118 cases in 2011.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation, said: “Over the last year we have seen a large rise in the number of whooping cough cases with the most serious cases being in children too young to be protected by routine vaccinations.

“The vaccine that we are offering to pregnant women has been recommended by experts and a similar vaccine is already given to pregnant women in the US. If you are pregnant, getting vaccinated is the best way you can protect your baby against whooping cough.”

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This campaign has our full support. Whooping cough is on the increase among young babies and it can be a dangerous and potentially fatal infection.”  

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