Whooping cough vaccinations on offer to pregnant women
7:40am Wednesday 3rd October 2012 in News
Pregnant women across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are being offered vaccinations against whooping cough to protect their babies.
The government has launched a temporary vaccine programme in response to concerns over the rise in the number of cases of whooping cough being diagnosed nationally, particularly amongst babies.
Nationally, nine babies have died as a result of the illness this year and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under three months old – more than double the 115 cases reported in the whole of 2011, according to the Health Protection Agency.
The South East and South West are particularly affected by the outbreak.
Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium and the symptoms are a bad cough with a noticeable “whoop” sound after each cough.
Although for most people the cough is just unpleasant and goes away on its own, it can be very serious for babies and, in the worst cases, can be fatal.
“We are asking all women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who are 28 weeks pregnant or more to contact their GP to get the vaccination to protect them and their babies against this highly contagious disease,” said Felicity Owen, director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
“The vaccine will boost the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to their newborn babies, who normally cannot be vaccinated themselves until they are two months old.
“It will also provide protection for them while in the womb if their mum contracts the disease.”
Health Protection Agency figures show that from January to August this year, 4,791 cases in all ages were reported – four times more than the whole of 2011, which saw 1,118 cases.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, there have been 48 cases reported in all ages from January to August this year. In the whole of 2011, there were less than five cases reported in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Letters will go out to eligible women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, inviting them to contact their surgery as soon as possible to arrange to have their vaccination.
The vaccine is completely safe to have while pregnant and women planning to have a flu vaccine can have both at the same time.
They are advised they should still have the whooping cough vaccine even if they had it when they were a child.
The vaccine has been recommended by experts and a similar vaccine is already given to pregnant women in the United States.