GPs in Cambridgeshire are offering expectant mothers in the county the whooping cough vaccination alongside the annual flu vaccination.
Flu vaccinations are routinely offered to pregnant women and can be given at any stage of the pregnancy. However following a sharp increase in the number of babies with whooping cough, expectant mothers can now help protect their babies by getting themselves vaccinated against whooping cough from week 28 of their pregnancy.
Whooping cough is a serious disease. Babies who get it can develop severe complications such as pneumonia and permanent brain damage. Most babies with whooping cough will need treatment and when whooping cough is very severe, they may die.
Whooping cough vaccines are normally offered to babies at two months old along with other routine vaccinations. However, over the past few years the number of babies under two months getting whooping cough has increased, resulting in a number of infant deaths.
Dr Liz Robin, director of public health for NHS Cambridgeshire, said: “Getting vaccinated against flu and whooping cough is the best way to protect yourself and your baby from the illnesses. Both jabs are quick, safe and completely free – just ask your midwife or GP for details and make an appointment with your GP.
“You may have thought whooping cough had died out but it has been rising recently with over three times as many cases in England and Wales up to the end of August 2012 as there were up to the end of August 2011. Cases in young babies especially are rising quickly.
“The only way you can help protect your baby from getting whooping cough in its first weeks after birth is by having the vaccination yourself while pregnant. You will then pass some immunity to your baby before he or she is born, until they have their own vaccination at two months.
“Pregnant women are also at increased risk of serious illness if they catch flu. In fact, studies have shown that pregnant women with some strains of flu are four times more likely to develop serious illness and four to five times more likely to be admitted to hospital than the general population.
“If you are 28 weeks or over then you will be able to have the whooping cough vaccination and if you have not already had your flu vaccination, we can offer that at the same time.
“If you are less than 28 weeks pregnant we can offer you the flu vaccination now, and then you will need to return when you are 28 weeks for the whooping cough vaccination.”
Please book an appointment with your local GP practice for the vaccinations. For more information, speak to your GP, midwife or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu or www.immunisation.dh.gov.uk