Mothers-to-be urged to have jab

Hillingdon Times: Pregnant women are being encouraged to get themselves immunised in order to protect their babies Pregnant women are being encouraged to get themselves immunised in order to protect their babies

Mothers-to-be are being urged to take part in a vaccination programme which will protect their babies from a potentially fatal infection.

While rates of whooping cough are actually declining, health officials are still encouraging pregnant women to get themselves immunised in order to protect their babies.

As a result of the 2012 outbreak of the infection, the Department of Health announced that pregnant women would be offered the vaccination which protects against the infection.

Newborns cannot receive the jab until they are two months old but vaccinating their mothers before they are born will boost their immunity until they reach the age when they can have the injection themselves, officials said.

In 2013, three babies died as a result of whooping cough and none of the mother's had received the protective jab, P ublic Health England said.

Latest figures show that around 60% of pregnant women have received their vaccination, PHE said.

And now the body is encouraging others to accept the vaccination offer when they are 28 to 38 weeks pregnant.

PHE's head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said: "The continued reduction in cases of whooping cough in young infants is welcome news, but unfortunately we still confirmed the infection in three babies who died in 2013.

"The babies were too young to have been vaccinated themselves and none of their mothers had been vaccinated in pregnancy.

"The increase in vaccine uptake over the last six months is very encouraging but we need to ensure we vaccinate as many pregnant women as possible to avoid further tragic deaths.

"Although we have also seen a decline in cases in older children and adults between 2012 and 2013, the numbers still remain considerably higher than in 2011 suggesting that the infection is still circulating.

"While the infection remains at such high levels we are urging pregnant women to ensure they are vaccinated between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.

"We are also working with GPs, midwives and other health professionals to ensure they have the facts at hand to help women make the decision to vaccinate."

While whooping cough can cause nasty symptoms in adults, it does not usually cause any long-lasting complications and can be treated with antibiotics.

In the very young, whooping cough can be a serious illness and can lead to death in some cases.

Babies and children can often make a distressing "whoop" sound while gasping for air after a coughing fit.

Older children and adults tend to suffer a prolonged cough.

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