Pregnant women urged to get vaccine for whooping cough

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All mums-to-be are being urged to get vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis) to ensure their babies are protected from this nasty disease during the vulnerable first two months of life.

The vaccine is available from GP practices and offered to women between their 28th and 32nd week of pregnancy.

NHS Western Isles is concerned that there has been an increase in cases of pertussis in Scotland this year, with the rate in infants under one year of age almost doubling.

Half of all infants affected were babies aged two months or under.

Most at risk are babies under two months of age who have no natural protection against whooping cough and are too young to be immunised directly. For these babies, the disease is very serious and can lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Babies have already died in the UK because of this.

Protection can only be given to babies under two months of age through vaccination of their mum in pregnancy.

The vaccination (a small injection in the upper arm) is currently offered to all pregnant women between their 28th and 32nd weeks. It requires a visit to their GP practice.

The mother’s immunity is boosted by this vaccination and high levels of antibodies cross the placenta to help protect the baby.

Research has found that the vaccine given in pregnancy provides good protection for babies up to three months of age.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said: “Whooping cough in babies can be a horrible disease. Anyone who has seen the suffering and heard the coughing of a child with pertussis will want to avoid it happening to another child. Very young babies are particularly vulnerable if they don’t have immunity from their mother.”

Pregnant women should ask their midwife or GP practice for information on how to get the vaccine.

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