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04th Sep 2015

Pregnant women urged to get whooping cough vaccine to protect newborns

Katie Mythen-Lynch

Pregnant women are being urged to get themselves vaccinated against whooping cough after a significant surge in cases in Britain. 

Figures show an increase of 24 per cent in cases of the illness, which can be fatal for newborn babies. Highly contagious, it can also lead to complications such as pneumonia and brain damage. Just over half of women get the jab, leaving un-vaccinated mothers at risk.

The vaccine, which is free through maternity hospitals and GPs, stimulates the immune system to produce high levels of antibodies to the whooping cough bacteria, which pass to a baby in the womb and protect them during the first few months of life until they receive the routine childhood vaccines (which include whooping cough vaccine) at two, four and six months.

Research shows that babies whose mothers had the vaccine in pregnancy are 91 per cent less likely to develop whooping cough in their first weeks.

Because the antibodies we develop after vaccination decline over time, the HSE advises getting the vaccine again during every pregnancy so that high levels of these antibodies are passed to each baby.

For more information on the whooping cough vaccine and pregnancy, click here