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More than half of eligible pregnant women receive whooping cough vaccine

More than half of pregnant women with a due date in December received a whooping cough vaccination and cases of the illness are beginning to fall, show official figures.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said that 55% of women delivering in England in December were vaccinated against whooping cough.

In September last year, the DH launched a temporary programme to offer the vaccine to pregnant women to help stem the increasing rise in cases of the disease among newborns.

As part of the scheme, women between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant were expected to receive the Repevax vaccine as part of their routine antenatal appointment with a nurse, midwife or GP.

But earlier this year Pulse revealed that the brunt of the work was falling on GPs shoulders, as midwives felt they did not have the capacity or training to administer the vaccine.

The news comes as HPA figures show cases of laboratory confirmed whooping cough fell last month following a peak in October, with 832 confirmed cases in December compared to 1, 168 in November. However, HPA experts warned this decrease was expected due to seasonal patterns of infection.

A total of 9741 cases were reported in England and Wales in 2012, almost ten times higher than the number of cases reported in 2011 (in which 1,119 cases were reported), and in 2008 (in which 902 cases were reported) - the last peak year before the current outbreak.

There was one death of an infant in December, bringing the total number of deaths in babies under three months in 2012 to 14.

The highest number of cases were reported in those aged 15 and over, with a total of 8,059 cases in 2012, compared to 740 cases in 2011 and 493 cases in 2008.

Commenting on the figures, Dr. Mary Ramsay said: ‘The December figures show another welcome decrease in the overall number of whooping cough cases since the peak in October. However, it is very important to note that we usually see a reduction in cases of whooping cough at this time of year so this decrease is in line with normal seasonal patterns.

‘It is very encouraging to see that 55% per cent of pregnant women delivering in December in England had accepted the offer of a vaccination against whooping cough.

‘It is important that, parents still ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough on time, even babies of women who’ve had the vaccine in pregnancy – this is to continue their baby’s protection through childhood.’


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