Gps are to begin offering pregnant women in Chesterfield and North Derbyshire the whooping cough vaccine following a sharp rise in the number of young babies who have died from the disease.
The temporary vaccine programme was launched by the Department of Health on Friday, September 28, and aims to boost the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to protect their newborn babies – who normally cannot be vaccinated until two months of age.
Nationally, nine babies have died as a result of whooping cough 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 vaccine will be offered to women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy, even if they have already had the whooping cough jab.
Dr Bruce Laurence, deputy director of public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “Whooping cough is highly contagious, and usually starts with a persistent dry cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing.
“We are asking all women who are 28 weeks pregnant or more to contact their GP to get their whooping cough vaccination, even if they’ve had the vaccine before, as it will boost their immunity and protect their child in their first weeks of life from a serious infection which can stop the baby breathing, lead to pneumonia, brain damage, weight loss and, in some cases, death.
“Women having the whooping cough vaccine can also have their flu vaccine at the same time, which will also protect them and their unborn child from the potentially devastating consequences of the flu.
“It’s also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection, and to make sure children are kept up-to-date with their vaccines.”
GPs will be working closely with local midwives to help ensure that all women are given clear guidance on the vaccine during routine antenatal appointments.
The mother’s immune system should respond to the injection by producing whooping cough antibodies, which then cross the placenta into the developing child.
Further information about whooping cough and the vaccine for pregnant women can be found at www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Whooping-cough/Pages/Introduction.aspx.