As whooping cough is on the increase across the country the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales is recommending that all mums-to-be protect their new born babies from whooping cough by getting a jab when they are pregnant.
The number of cases of whooping cough is increasing with more than 4,400 confirmed cases in England and Wales this year (compared with less than 500 in 2010). This year there have been nine deaths of babies who were too young to have had the vaccine as part of the routine childhood immunisation programme, which starts at two months.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the lungs that can be very serious in babies leading to complications such as brain damage, pneumonia and even death.
Health bosses in Newham are encouraging mums-to-be to protect their new born babies from whooping cough by getting the vaccine in the last three months of their pregnancy (from 28 weeks). Pregnant women who have the vaccine will pass protection to their babies against whooping cough that last for the first weeks of their life, until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.
Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health for Tower Hamlets within NHS North East London and the City, said:
“If you are pregnant ask your GP, practice nurse or midwife about how you can get the whooping cough vaccination.
“Vaccination is one of the safest ways to prevent infectious disease. The vaccine is safe for both mother and unborn child. It is much safer to have the vaccine than to risk whooping cough in a newborn baby.
“The vaccine protects against whooping cough for the first few weeks of life but it is vitally important that babies still receive the full routine childhood immunisation programme starting at two months.” +
In Tower Hamlets the vaccine is available through GP practices
Dr Somen Banerjee continued:
“The whooping cough injection will be discussed with all pregnant women as part of their routine antenatal care and they will be invited to attend at the appropriate stage of pregnancy to receive this.
“Pregnant women who have been vaccinated against whooping cough before becoming pregnant or who have had the disease themselves should still be vaccinated once they are pregnant to protect their new born child. The vaccine also protects against polio, diphtheria and tetanus. It is the same vaccine that is routinely given to children before they start school.”