Whooping Cough: Vaccine To Be Routinely Given To Pregnant Women

Pregnant women in the UK are to be routinely vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their babies.

Vaccinating pregnant woman against the disease was introduced as a temporary measure after an outbreak in 2012 that killed 14 newborn babies.

A Government advisory committee has now suggested continuing the immunisation program for the next five years, as there is a 'great deal of uncertainty' about future outbreaks.

Whopping cough can affect people of any age, but babies are most at risk during their first few months of life, as the infection can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, weight loss and death.

Babies are routinely vaccinated against the disease when they are two, three and four months old.

Giving the vaccine to women when they 28 to 38 weeks pregnant protects newborns from infection before they have their first injection, as the protective antibodies from the vaccine are passed from the mother to her unborn child.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said lives have been saved by the preventative measure, and advised continuing vaccination.

Vaccination in pregnancy reduces the risk of a newborn catching whopping cough by 91 per cent, according to Public Health England.

Since vaccination was introduced nearly two years ago there have been a further eight whooping cough related deaths, seven in unvaccinated families.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, told the BBC:

"These infant deaths remind us how important it is that every pregnant woman is informed about the benefits of the vaccine and given the opportunity to receive it at the right time so their babies are protected from birth.

"Although we have also seen a decline in cases in older children and adults from the peak in 2012 the numbers still remain considerably higher than those in 2011, suggesting the infection has not fallen to background levels.

"We urge pregnant women to ensure they are vaccinated."

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