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Whooping cough vaccine extended for five years

21 July 2014

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The routine whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women should be continued for a further five years, experts have recommended. 

Research from Public health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) showed high levels of safety and efficacy for the current vaccine. 

PHE’s study, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases showed a 91% reduced risk of children being infected with whooping cough compared to babies whose mothers had not been immunised. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has accepted the research and called for the current scheme to be extended. 

Vaccinating a woman while pregnant means antibodies in the bloodstream are passed through the placenta, protecting the child until their first immunisation, aged two months. 

Deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson said: “Babies too young to start their vaccinations are at greatest risk from whooping cough. It’s an extremely distressing illness that can lead to young babies being admitted to hospital and can potentially be fatal. 

“The JCVI’s advice will be welcomed by families and we will work with NHS England to ensure the programme continues to be offered to mums-to-be.”

The jab is ideally administered between 28 and 32 weeks, although it can be given “up to 38 weeks”.

Although whooping cough affects all ages, young infants are the ones at highest risk of serious complications and death. 

Latest data from PHE shows a decline in the overall number of cases of the illness since October 2012, with the greatest decrease in whooping cough incidents seen in infants under six months old.

In the 2012 there were 14 infant deaths related to whooping cough prior to the vaccination programme.

Eight deaths have been reported in 2013 and 2014 so far. Seven of the eight mothers whose babies died had not been vaccinated.