Whooping Cough vaccination urged as cases rise rapidly in Wales
Public health experts are encouraging all pregnant women and parents of babies and young children to ensure they have had their Whooping Cough vaccinations as cases in Wales show rapid increase.
Whooping cough is an infection of the lungs and breathing tubes caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria.
It spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems, especially in infants under one year of age.
Whooping cough has waves of increased infection every 3-4 years and in the last few weeks, notifications of whooping cough have risen sharply.
Following reduced circulation in 2020-2022, current notifications are at levels not seen since 2012 and 2015.
Laboratory confirmed cases have not yet risen in line with notifications but are likely to increase as test results are reported.
Whooping cough is a vaccine preventable disease. The pertussis vaccine is included in the ‘6-in-1 vaccine’ given to babies at eight, 12 and 16 weeks.
In 2013 a vaccination programme was also established to offer the pertussis vaccination to all expectant mothers in the UK from weeks 16 – 32 of pregnancy.
This is to help protect their newborn infants from whooping cough until they are old enough to receive first their ‘6 in 1’ vaccine at aged 8 weeks.
As immunity against pertussis wanes over time, a booster dose is also given in the pre-school boosters (normally given at 3 years 4 months) with the aim of reducing whooping cough in older age groups being passed on to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated babies.
Rates of 6 in 1 vaccination in Wales remain high, but in the last year rates of vaccination in pregnancy have fallen from over 80% to 70%.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant Epidemiologist and Head of Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said: “We typically see high rates of whooping cough peaking every three to four years, and with rates suppressed during the lock downs of the pandemic we are naturally seeing a resurgence this year.
“Whooping cough is highly contagious and is spread by breathing in small droplets in the air from other people’s coughs and sneezes. Babies under six months old are at most risk. It can be very serious and lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Young babies with whooping cough are at risk of dying from the disease.
“The protection you receive from the pertussis vaccine in pregnancy passes on to your unborn baby and protects the baby in the first few weeks of their life, until they receive their first routine immunisation when they are two months old. The vaccine also protects you from getting whooping cough and lowers the risk of you passing it on to your baby.
“We would urge all pregnant women and parents of babies and young children to ensure they take up their offer of vaccination when given, or to ask their GP, mid wife or health visitor if they believe they may not have had it.”
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