Birmingham & Black Country

Pregnant women to get whooping cough vaccine

Pregnant women in the West Midlands are to be offered whooping cough vaccinations following a huge jump in cases and deaths amongst infants.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said there were 318 confirmed cases in the West Midlands region in the first eight months of 2012, compared to 33 in 2011 and 10 in 2010.

Children are already vaccinated when they are a few months old but this will increase protection, the HPA said.

The scheme is to start next week.

Women who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant will be offered the vaccine during routine antenatal appointments.

The decision comes after the independent vaccine experts reviewed the available evidence, the HPA said.

'Urgent measure'

The main symptoms are severe coughing fits accompanied by a "whoop" sound as a child gasps for breath.

Nationally, there were nine deaths of young children in the first eight months of this year, two more than than in the whole of 2011, figures showed.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the HPA, said: "We have been very concerned about the continuing increase in whooping cough cases and related deaths.

"We welcome the urgent measure from the Department of Health to minimise the harm from whooping cough, particularly in young infants, and we encourage all pregnant women to ensure they receive the vaccination to give their baby the best protection against whooping cough."

The illness can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

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