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UKHSA asks pregnant women to take whooping cough jab amid rising cases of ‘100 day cough’





Pregnant women are being encouraged to come forward for a whooping cough jab amid a sharp rise in cases and falling vaccination rates.

More than 700 people are suspected to have been infected with whooping cough in England and Wales between July and November – triple the number of cases reported during the same period last year.

The cough may last for several weeks or months. Image: iStock.
The cough may last for several weeks or months. Image: iStock.

The bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, also known as pertussis, spreads easily. It can sometimes cause serious problems that leave sufferers unwell for weeks or months - earning the illness the nickname the ‘100 day cough’.

But a steady fall in the number of women coming forward for vaccination, including in Lincolnshire, is thought to be contributing to the rise - with coverage among expectant mums now reportedly at a seven-year low.

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The UK Health Security Agency first warned back in April that declining attendance rates for immunisation this year were fast becoming a concern, with the jab known to protect babies in their first few vulnerable weeks of life.

KCC is encouraging pregnant women to come forward for a jab. Image: iStock.
KCC is encouraging pregnant women to come forward for a jab. Image: iStock.

According to the latest available figures for Lincolnshire, coverage among pregnant women stood at 57.8% for the months April to June.

Vaccine coverage in the county is lower than the national average of 58.1% – the month of May in particular saw that number drop to just 54.8% of expectant mothers in Lincolnshire.

Coverage for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland stood at just 56.9% for the three months to the end of June – also below the national average for the same time period. June itself saw just 54.6% of pregnant women there reached.

Elsewhere in the country, Suffolk and North East Essex had a coverage rate of 61.8%, Birmingham and Solihull recorded a figure of just 41.8% while some areas of London – where numbers have dropped by almost 20% in the last four years – have seen coverage this summer plummet to just 28% of pregnant women.

Babies will be offered further protection during their first three months. Image: iStock.
Babies will be offered further protection during their first three months. Image: iStock.

Alongside immunisation for expectant mothers, new babies are then offered additional whooping cough protection in their jabs at eight, 12 and 16 weeks-old.

Expectant mothers wanting to know more about the injection can find that information here.

The UK Health Security Agency says England, like many other countries still seeing cases of whooping cough, will experience a peak roughly every three to four years.

While rising lab-confirmed cases at present remain lower than some pre-pandemic years, doctors say it is vital women carrying a baby put themselves forward.

The jab will protect babies during their early weeks of life. Image: iStock.
The jab will protect babies during their early weeks of life. Image: iStock.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, explained: “Before the introduction of routine immunisation, whooping cough used to affect tens of thousands of people. Thanks to vaccination this has dropped dramatically but the infection hasn’t gone away completely as neither infection nor vaccination can provide life-long protection.

“Social distancing and lockdown measures imposed across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the spread of other infections, including whooping cough. As expected, we are now seeing cases of whooping cough increase again so it’s vital pregnant women ensure they get vaccinated to protect their baby.”



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