Action to curb whooping cough

Pregnant women to be offered jab to protect newborn babies. Temporary measure introduced following nine deaths.

Health visitors and midwives are preparing to vaccinate pregnant women to protect their newborn babies from whooping cough.

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies says the temporary move is necessary because latest figures, published by the Health Protection Agency, reveal a large increase in cases of the potential fatal illness across England, including the South West.

There were 843 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the region in the first eight months of this year, compared to 65 in 2011 and 44 in 2010;

Of those, 302 cases were reported in infants under 12 weeks of age – more than double the 115 cases reported in the same period in 2011.

There were nine deaths of young children in the same period.

The decision to introduce the temporary programme was made after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the Government’s independent vaccine experts - reviewed the available evidence and agreed that the vaccine should be offered to the approximate 650,000 women a year who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.

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The vaccine will be offered to pregnant women during routine antenatal appointments with a nurse, midwife or GP - even if they have previously been immunised.