The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has asked the DH to raise the issue of all children receiving their first pertussis immunisation at eight weeks of age with the RCGP and the BMA.
It also said that GP practices could advise parents not able to bring their child to an appointment at eight weeks that they can have the vaccination from six weeks of age instead.
The move comes after the Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced that cases of whooping cough continued to rise, with 2,466 cases reported this year so far – more than double number of cases over the same period in 2011.
The JCVI has asked the HPA to assess the cost-effectiveness of introducing a range of new immunisation schemes to stem the rise in cases.
These include vaccinating adolescents, pregnant women or neonates in order to reduce rising instances of the potentially fatal disease.
The JCVI also recommended GP IT systems that cap the number of children attending vaccination clinics should be replaced.
Minutes from the June meeting of the JCVI said: ‘It was noted that delays in some infant immunisation clinics may be caused by the way GP IT systems schedule immunisation clinics, as they may cap the number of children attending any one clinic.
‘The committee advised that the importance of adherence to the routine immunisation schedule should be reinforced and agreed the DH should have discussions with the BMA and RCGP to clear waiting lists and advocate for timely immunisation.’
Dr George Kassianos, RCGP lead on immunisation and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said that GPs should begin giving booster vaccines to adolescents while they wait for the results of the HPA’s modeling strategies.
He said: ‘The situation is worsening year on year. I’m seeing whooping cough every week in my practice in people of all ages, including in the elderly.
‘We’re impotent because neither the vaccine nor the disease itself can give lifelong immunity.’
He added: ‘We must wait for the results of the HPA’s studies, but I have always asked for a booster vaccination at the school leaving age of 16 years. We do not have to wait for any study to be done. This is done in many countries already. We have the vaccine – Repevax – already, and it’s not expensive. We can make a start with this problem. Why don’t we start now?’