Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Pregnant women urged to take up offer of whooping cough jab as cases soar





Five babies in England have died from whooping cough - prompting an urgent appeal to pregnant women and new mothers to take up the offer of a jab for themselves or their infant.

Doctors are hugely concerned about rising infection rates after more than 1,300 cases were recorded in March alone - up from 900 in February - and triple the 858 cases recorded in 2023.

Health officials are encouraging pregnant women to come forward for a jab. Image: iStock.
Health officials are encouraging pregnant women to come forward for a jab. Image: iStock.

The UK Health Security Agency has also confirmed that since January this year, five babies have died as a result of the illness.

Health officials say very young children are the most at risk of severe complications from whopping cough.

The bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, also known as pertussis, can spread very easily and sufferers can be left feeling unwell for weeks or even months - earning the illness the nickname the ‘100 day cough’.

Experts fear that a steady fall in the number of patients coming forward for a vaccine together with reduced population immunity because of social distancing measures during the pandemic may both be contributing to the current rise.

However updated estimates of vaccine effectiveness in pregnancy, says the UKHSA, show high levels of protection (92%) against infant death.

The jab will protect babies during their early weeks of life. Image: iStock.
The jab will protect babies during their early weeks of life. Image: iStock.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Consultant Epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, said: “Vaccination remains the best defence against whooping cough and it is vital that pregnant women and young infants receive their vaccines at the right time.

“Whooping cough can affect people of all ages but for very young babies it can be extremely serious. Our thoughts and condolences are with those families who have so tragically lost their baby.”

Pregnant women are offered a whooping cough vaccine in every pregnancy, ideally between 20 and 32 weeks, and this passes protection to their unborn child and protects them in their first few weeks of life.

All babies are then given three doses of the 6 in 1 jab at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age to protect against whooping cough and other serious diseases followed by a pre-school booster after children turn three.

Babies will be offered further protection during their first three months. Image: iStock.
Babies will be offered further protection during their first three months. Image: iStock.

A surge in cases is also being reported in a number of other countries with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggesting this week that some nations may soon want to consider booster jabs for adults and older children.

The UK Health Security Agency first warned last April that declining attendance rates for immunisation in England were becoming a concern.

Of the 1,468 cases confirmed between January and February 2024, around half were in those aged 15 years or older and 30% were in children aged between 10 and 14 years.

During the first two months of the year there were 52 confirmed cases among babies under the age of three months.

The cough may last for several weeks or months. Image: iStock.
The cough may last for several weeks or months. Image: iStock.

NHS National Medical Director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, added: “With cases of whooping cough continuing to rise sharply across the country, and today’s figures sadly showing five infant deaths, it is vital that families come forward to get the protection they need.

“If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated yet, or your child is not up-to-date with whooping cough or other routine vaccinations, please contact your GP as soon as possible, and if you or your child show symptoms ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111.”

Anyone diagnosed with whooping cough is advised to stay at home and not go to work, nursery or school until 48 hours after starting antibiotics or three weeks after symptoms start if they have not had antibiotics.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More