UKHSA asks pregnant women to take whooping cough jab amid rising cases of ‘100 day cough’
Pregnant women in Kent are being encouraged to come forward for a whooping cough jab amid a sharp rise in cases.
More than 700 people are suspected to have been infected with whooping cough in England and Wales between July and November – triple the number of cases reported during the same period last year.
The bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, also known as pertussis, spreads easily and can sometimes cause serious problems that leave sufferers unwell for weeks or months - earning the illness the nickname the ‘100 day cough’.
A steady fall in the number of women coming forward for vaccination, now reportedly at a seven-year low, could also be contributing to the rise.
The UK Health Security Agency first warned back in April that declining attendance rates for immunisation were becoming a concern with the jab known to protect babies in their first few vulnerable weeks of life.
According to the latest available figures for Kent and Medway, coverage among pregnant women stood at 63.8% for the months April to June this year.
While vaccine coverage in the county is marginally higher than the national average of 58.1% – UK health officials are watching neighbouring London closely where coverage has dropped by almost 20% between June 2019 and June 2023.
Some areas of central London, warn the UKHSA, had just 28% of pregnant women protected according to the latest stats from this summer.
Kent County Council, which has a responsibility for public health, is encouraging pregnant women in the county to come forward for a whooping cough jab when called by their GP or midwife. Their baby will then be offered additional protection at eight, 12 and 16-weeks-old.
A KCC spokesman explained: “Vaccination remains the most effective way to tackle many infectious diseases. Any mum-to-be who wants to know more should speak to their GP or midwife.
“There’s also lots of helpful information about vaccine safety on the NHS website.”
Expectant mothers wanting to know more about the jab can find that information here.
The UK Health Security Agency says England, like many other countries still seeing cases of whooping cough, will experience a peak roughly every three to four years. And while lab confirmed cases are now on the rise, at present they remain lower than some pre-pandemic years.
Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, Consultant Epidemiologist at UK Health Security Agency, explained: “Before the introduction of routine immunisation, whooping cough used to affect tens of thousands of people. Thanks to vaccination this has dropped dramatically but the infection hasn’t gone away completely as neither infection nor vaccination can provide life-long protection.
“Social distancing and lockdown measures imposed across the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the spread of other infections, including whooping cough. As expected, we are now seeing cases of whooping cough increase again so it’s vital pregnant women ensure they get vaccinated to protect their baby.”