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Whooping cough jab to be offered during pregnancy and Scottish doctors threaten strike action

Today brings news that the whooping cough vaccine will be made available for women in the 28th to 38th week of pregnancy in a move to halt a surge in baby deaths, a story also covered by Pulse.

The Guardian reports that all pregnant women will be the offered the vaccination by GPs from Friday in an urgent effort by the government to halt the surge in deaths of small babies.

Ten children from across the UK have died from whooping cough in the first eight months of this year – up from seven in the whole of 2011.

In England and Wales, between January and August of this year, there were 4,791 cases of whooping cough in all ages, which is three times more than for the whole of last year.

The deaths are in newborn babies, who have not yet reached the age of two months, when they are routinely given their first vaccinations.

In the first eight months of this year, there were 302 cases among these unprotected babies under 12 weeks, compared with 115 cases in the same period in 2011.

Professor Sally Davies, the chief medical officer said that she could not emphasise enough the importance of protecting babies against the very real threat of the whooping cough epidemic.

The inactivated vaccine, called Repevax and made by Sanofi Pasteur, has been given to pregnant women in the US since last year because of a similar rise in whooping cough cases, said director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury.

It also has a long safety record in children. "We have used this vaccine for close to a decade as a pre-school booster. It is used as a booster in Germany and France as a booster for adults," he added.


Meanwhile the BBC reports that Scottish doctors could once again strike if a row over pensions is not resolved, also a story covered by Pulse.

The BMA has warned that the row, which has already seen doctors take industrial action earlier this year, could erupt again.  The union said that the Scottish government had failed to use its powers to come up with an alternative offer to that being imposed in England and Wales.

If doctors vote for strike action they will provide emergency-only cover on 12 December.

The BMA plans to ballot hospital doctors in November and, if the vote gives the go-ahead for action, the strike would take place on 12 December, with the possibility of further action on both 8 and 17 January next year.