Pregnant women urged to protect babies with whooping cough vaccination
Pregnant women across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are to be offered whooping cough vaccinations to protect their newborn babies, following a rise in cases and deaths amongst young infants nationwide, Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has announced.
The programme, which begins this week, aims to boost the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to protect their newborn babies – who cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old.
The vaccination is recommended for women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. Women at later stages of pregnancy are also being offered the vaccine as it will generate some immunity, until their baby is able to have the vaccine.
Becky Pollard, director of public health for North Somerset said: “For babies and young children whooping cough can be a serious – and potentially fatal – illness. The programme of vaccination offers mothers the best protection for their baby against whooping cough.
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“We also want to alert parents to the signs and symptoms – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic “whoop” sound in young children. We also advise parents to keep their babies away from older siblings or adults who have a persistent cough.”
Pregnant women will be contacted by their GP surgery to arrange an appointment for the vaccination.
The vaccination can be given at the same time as vaccination against seasonal flu and local health chiefs are keen to reassure patients that both vaccines are safe for pregnant women.
Women, who have never previously had the pertussis vaccination or are uncertain about whether they have had the pertussis vaccination, and with babies under 2 months old may request a vaccination from their GP.
The move comes as the latest figures for England and Wales, released last week by the Health Protection Agency, show a large increase in cases in young infants. Earlier this year Health chiefs in North Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire warned of the dangers of whooping cough and the need to ensure children’s vaccinations were fully up to date, following a rise in confirmed cases since January.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies today emphasised the seriousness of whooping cough and the importance of protecting unborn babies through the vaccination.
“Whooping cough is highly contagious and newborns are particularly vulnerable," she said.
"Nine infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under three 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.”