HEALTH chiefs have welcomed the introduction of whooping cough vaccinations for pregnant women after a rise in cases in young children.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has brought about the move after after the biggest nationwide outbreak of the illness for two decades claimed the lives of nine babies.
So far this year nine infants under the age of three months have died in England as a result of the infectious disease.
There have been 4,791 confirmed cases in England and Wales between January and August, four times more than the total figure for 2011, when there were 1,118 cases, the HPA said.
There has not been a huge number of cases in Hartlepool, with just five so far this year, up from none in 2011.
NHS Tees, which includes NHS Hartlepool, welcomed the move.
Celia Weldon, director of corporate affairs at NHS Tees, said “NHS Tees welcomes the news of the introduction of whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women as this will protect their newborn babies.
“To get the vaccine, you just need to contact your GP Practice.
“It is still important to remember that parents continue to ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough to continue their protection throughout their lives.”
Health chiefs said vaccination should be offered to pregnant women, ideally at a routine antenatal visit, and between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnant women who are now beyond week 38 of pregnancy may also be vaccinated up to the onset of labour, and also new mothers who have never previously been vaccinated against whooping cough, up to when their child receives their first vaccination.
At present, to get the vaccine, women just need to contact their GP Practice.
Bosses say it is still important to remember that parents continue to ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough to continue their protection throughout their lives.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s principal medical adviser, said that mothers-to-be will be offered the vaccination to protect their newborn babies.
Youngsters cannot receive the jab until they are two months old so vaccinating their mothers before they are born will boost their immunity until they reach the age they can get the injection themselves, Dame Sally said.
Increases in whooping cough are usually seen every three to four years, the last rise in the number of confirmed cases was recorded in 2008.
Dame Sally said: “Whooping cough is highly contagious and newborns are particularly vulnerable. It’s vital that babies are protected from the day they are born . That’s why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women.”