Pregnant women in the UK are to be routinely vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their unborn babies, following a national whooping cough outbreak among very young babies in 2012.
The Department of Health announced the temporary vaccination programme for pregnant women in October 2012 and The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now announced that the vaccination programme should continue for a further five years.
Vaccinating women against whooping cough in pregnancy (between 28 and 38 weeks) means that the mum-to-be passes immunity on to her unborn child, protecting the baby until they receive their first whooping cough vaccination at two months old.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Watson said, ‘Babies too young to start their vaccinations are at greatest risk from whooping cough. It’s an extremely distressing illness that can lead to young babies being admitted to hospital and can potentially be fatal.'
New Public Health England (PHE) research published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases shows that vaccinating pregnant women against whooping cough has been highly effective in protecting young infants from this potentially fatal disease.
Babies born to women vaccinated at least a week before delivery had a 91% reduced risk of becoming ill with whooping cough in their first weeks of life, compared with babies whose mothers had not been vaccinated.
The PHE data also show an overall decline in whooping cough cases since the pregnancy programme started in October 2012.
The greatest decrease in disease seen has been in infants under six months old, who are targeted by the maternal vaccination programme, which provides good evidence it is working.
PHE’s head of immunisation, Dr Mary Ramsay, said, ‘We welcome JCVI’s advice that the vaccination programme for pregnant women is continued, particularly while whooping cough continues to circulate at elevated levels. It has been highly effective at preventing disease, and deaths in young babies.’