Pregnant women are being urged to vaccinate against whooping cough to protect their babies from the potentially dangerous condition.
A temporary vaccination programme was put in place following a national whooping cough outbreak among very young babies in 2012 and in July this year it was announced that the programme would run 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.
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.
READ: PREGNANT WOMEN TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST WHOOPING COUGH
The latest figures show that in the first six months of 2014 there have already been five deaths in babies, four of which were between April and June.
Dr Sema Mandal, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation at Public Health England says, ‘These infant deaths reminds 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.
READ: PREGNANT WOMEN WORST HIT BY FLU VIRUS DUE TO ‘STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM RESPONSE’
‘We urge pregnant women to ensure they are vaccinated between 28 and 32 weeks of their pregnancy wherever possible, although vaccination may be given up to 38 weeks.
‘Parents must also ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough on time, even babies of women who’ve had the vaccine in pregnancy – this is to provide continued protection through childhood,’ Mandal adds
READ: YOUR BABY’S IMMUNISATION CALENDAR
Symptoms of whooping cough include severe coughing fits, which may be accompanied by difficulty breathing (or pauses in breathing in young infants) or vomiting after coughing and the characteristic ‘whoop’ sound in young children. In older children or adults it may present simply as a prolonged cough.
Have you had the vaccination? Let us know below