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Whooping Cough

Question for Department of Health

UIN 204559, tabled on 8 July 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps the NHS has taken to address recent increases in the incidence of whooping cough in the UK.

Answered on

15 July 2014

In addition to the National Health Service routine immunisation schedule, where whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine is offered to all children at two, three and four months of age with a further dose offered at pre-school age, the Department introduced a temporary pertussis vaccination programme for pregnant women in October 2012 following the national outbreak in April 2012.

Providing the vaccine to pregnant women between weeks 28 and 38 of pregnancy, results in high levels of antibody against pertussis being transferred to the baby in the womb, protecting them until they are old enough to receive their first pertussis vaccine at the age of two months. Good vaccine uptake has been achieved with approximately 60% of pregnant women immunised in the six months to March 2014.

The main aim of the NHS routine immunisation schedule and the temporary vaccination programme for pregnant women is to protect young infants who are at greatest risk of serious disease and death. Pertussis is a cyclical disease but overall activity in England has fallen between October 2012 and March 2014. Confirmed cases in infants less than three months were 54% lower in the first quarter of 2014 (12 cases) than the equivalent quarter in 2013 (26 cases).