Whooping cough alert vaccine offer

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PREGNANT Wigan women will be offered whooping cough vaccinations to protect their newborn babies following a rise in cases and deaths among young infants.

Due to begin this week, the programme aims to boost the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to protect their newborn babies – who normally cannot be vaccinated until they are two months old.

The move comes as the latest figures, released by the Health Protection Agency, show a large increase in cases in young infants both across all regions, including the North West.

The figures show there were 301 confirmed cases in the North West in the first eight months of this year, compared to 57 in 2011 and 39 in 2010.

In the first eight months of this year 302 cases were reported in infants under 12 weeks of age – more than double the 115 cases reported in the same period in 2011.

There were nine deaths of young children in the same period – up from seven in the whole of 2011; and

From January to August 2012, 4,791 cases in all ages were reported – three times more than the whole of 2011 which saw 1,118 cases.

The decision to introduce the temporary programme was made after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the Government’s independent vaccine experts – reviewed the available evidence and agreed that the vaccine should be offered to the approximate 650,000 women a year who are between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. The vaccine will be offered to pregnant women during routine antenatal appointments with a nurse, midwife or GP.

Even if women have previously been immunised they will be encouraged to be re-vaccinated to boost immunity, as it helps protect babies before they can start their own immunisations.