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RCGP says pertussis vaccine rates remain ‘too low’

Only a fifth of pregnant women in some areas have received the whooping cough vaccine, according to preliminary figures obtained from PCTs.

The DH released official figures today showing that half of pregnant women have received the vaccination, but statistics obtained by Pulse from 34 PCTs show that the percentage of pregnant women who received the whooping cough vaccination in October or November ranged from 21% to 77% across the UK.

The rates were described as ‘too low’ by the RCGP lead on immunisation, as cases of whooping cough continue to rise.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show that cases of whooping cough have soared this year. Up to the end of October, the number of cases so far this year was nearly 10 times higher than for the same period in 2008, the last ‘peak’ year before the current outbreak.

The programme was introduced to boost the short-term immunity passed on by women to their newborn babies, who would normally not be vaccinated until two months old.

But there have been problems rolling out the programme, with Pulse reporting last month that midwives in some areas were refusing to take part.

The range of women vaccinated in October and November ranged from 21% to 77%, while for those who provided data from from October to 7 December it was between 37% and 60%.

Just 21% of women in Heart of Birmingham PCT with a due delivery date in October received the vaccination after the DH launched the temporary programme to vaccinate women between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.

A spokesperson for NHS Birmingham and Solihull said: ‘We are expecting to see an improvement in the next uptake figures.’

NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral PCT Cluster administered vaccines to 24% of women due in October 2012, although a cluster spokesperson said there was ‘major under-reporting’.

Dr George Kassianos, the RCGP’s lead on immunisation and a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, said current uptake rates were unacceptable.

He said: ‘These figures are too low. There is no reason why we can’t achieve 100% if all pregnant women agree to the vaccine. This cannot be achieved by GPs alone. There is a need for a national official information campaign by the DH and a great deal of co-operation of midwives.’


Uptake figures

Percentage of women who had a pertussis-containing vaccination in October: 

  • NHS Heart of Birmingham 21%
  • NHS Cheshire Warrington and Wirral 24%
  • NHS Sandwell 27%
  • NHS Bournemouth and Poole 28%

Source: 34 PCTs, data on file


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