Health chiefs plea on vaccine uptake

DERBYSHIRE health bosses are warning parents not to delay their child’s pre-school booster vaccine after figures revealed a slight drop in uptake in the county during the worst epidemic of whooping cough in 20 years.

Pre-school booster vaccines are offered to all children from aged three years, four months onwards, and provide protection against whooping cough as well as six other serious illnesses.

And although the injection is given as a ‘top-up’ to the first set of injections which are given to babies soon after they are born – health bosses from NHS Derbyshire County say the pre-school booster is vital in helping young children combat the highly infectious disease.

According to the Health Protection Agency, 13 babies under the age of three months have died as a result of the whooping cough in the UK this year, with almost 8,000 reported cases for the first ten months of the year – ten times more than in the same peak period in 2008.

There have been over 140 cases of whooping cough reported in Derbyshire alone between January and September this year and children who have not yet received their pre-school vaccine are at particular risk of catching the disease.

Jane Careless, immunisation co-ordinator for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “Whooping cough is an extremely infectious disease, which can cause serious complications particularly in young children.

“The current epidemic is the worst we’ve faced in 20 years, so we’re urging all parents and carers to help us combat this disease by making sure their child has their pre-school booster vaccine on time.

“Postponing the vaccine could leave young children at greater risk from the disease, as immunity given from the first set of vaccines will naturally start to wane.

“Many parents will be at home with their children over the Christmas and New Year holiday, so we’re urging parents and carers to call their GP surgery and book an appointment to get their child vaccinated.”

Latest figures show that uptake of the pre-school vaccine in Derbyshire has dropped nearly two per cent and is now at around 92 per cent.