Plea for Wigan mums-to-be and young babies to get whooping cough vaccine

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Pregnant women and the parents of young babies in Wigan are being urged to ensure they get the whooping cough vaccine, amid rising infections.

The North West has the lowest uptake of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in pregnant women outside London, with the proportion of mums having the vaccine falling dramatically since before the pandemic, from 70.9 per cent in April 2019 to 55.7 per cent in September 2023.

The region also has the second lowest vaccine uptake nationally in babies, who are offered the jab as part of the six-in-one combination vaccine at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age, plus an additional dose in the pre-school booster vaccine.

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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced an increase in whooping cough infections across England at the start of this year, with 553 in England in January, compared with 856 cases for the whole of last year.

Pregnant women and young babies are being urged to have the whooping cough vaccinePregnant women and young babies are being urged to have the whooping cough vaccine
Pregnant women and young babies are being urged to have the whooping cough vaccine
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Whooping cough is an infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, which spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems, especially in babies under one.

Tricia Spedding, deputy head of public health at NHS England – North West, said: “The drop in uptake of the pertussis vaccine in the North West is worrying, as although anyone can catch whooping cough, the infection can be very serious in young babies.

“If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated, or if your child hasn’t yet had the six-in-one combination vaccine, please contact your GP surgery to book an appointment to get the protection from whooping cough as soon as possible. If you’re unsure, check your child’s red book (health record).

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Vaccination remains the very best protection for babies and children from becoming unwell with whooping cough.”

Mums-to-be are offered the vaccine in pregnancy, so their baby has protection against whooping cough from birth.

The reminder is part of the new national childhood immunisation campaign urging parents to check the vaccination status of their children against measles and other serious diseases.

Parents are being asked to respond to invites from the NHS or to book an appointment with their GP practice if their child has not received all routine vaccines.

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Dr Merav Kliner, deputy director of UKHSA North West, said: “Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. It can cause severe complications in very young babies who are more likely to be admitted to hospital if they become unwell with infection. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect from the infection; children should receive the vaccination at two, three and four months old and have a pre-school booster after they are three. There is also a vaccination for pregnant women to provide protection for their babies.

“Parents can also help protect their children by ensuring they receive their vaccines at the right time or catching up as soon as possible if they have missed any. If you’re unsure, please check your child’s red book or get in touch with your GP surgery.”

The first signs of infection are similar to a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but after about a week the infection can develop into coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are typically worse at night.