Figures published today by Public Health England show that there have been more than 2,000 cases so far this year and very sadly, one baby has died. That baby’s mother had not been vaccinated while she was pregnant.
I recently wrote to local NHS and public health teams to strongly encourage them to increase their efforts to vaccinate women who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.
We are approaching the time of year when we expect to see cases of whooping cough rise. Last year around this time we saw a rapid rise in the number of cases, particularly in young babies and we can expect to see the same this year.
The programme to vaccinate pregnant women against whooping cough was introduced by the Department of Health at the end of last year supported by advice from independent vaccine experts. It provides a way of protecting young babies from birth until they are old enough to start their first vaccinations at 2 months.
Thanks to the efforts of GPs, midwives and many others in local teams, around 60% of eligible pregnant women take the vaccine, but we do need to see this increase.
Vaccine efficacy and safety are clear. The results of a study by PHE show that, in infants up to 2 months, protection by the vaccine is high. And a study of 18,000 vaccinated pregnant women by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has found no risks in pregnancy.
I recognise that this is a challenging time, with several new vaccination programmes being implemented at one time, but I want to urge you all to remain focused on promoting and encouraging women to take this vaccine, and to thank you for your efforts.
More information on the whooping cough vaccination.