22/08/2014

Extension For Whooping Cough Vaccination

A whooping cough vaccination programme for pregnant women is to be continued for another five years, it has been announced.

The recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has been welcomed by the Public Health Agency (PHA).

In September 2012, in response to a whooping cough outbreak, the Health Minister Edwin Poots announced that pregnant women would be offered the whooping cough vaccination as part of a programme to help protect their newborn babies. Following the publication of two research papers which showed the campaign has been effective since its introduction, the decision was made to continue the scheme for a further five years.

Welcoming the news, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I am pleased to extend this vaccination programme for the next five years. My decision is based on independent expert advice from the JCVI.

"In Northern Ireland we achieve very high uptake rates for the routine vaccination of babies at two, three and four months, but newborn babies are at risk from whooping cough until they are old enough to be vaccinated for themselves.

"Offering whooping cough vaccine to all pregnant women who have reached week 28 or above provides the best protection for those first few months of their baby's life."

Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, added: "The new research shows that vaccinating pregnant women against whooping cough has been highly effective in helping to protect young infants from this potentially fatal disease.

"Babies born to women vaccinated at least a week before delivery generally had a 91% reduced risk of becoming ill with whooping cough in their first weeks of life, compared with babies whose mothers had not been vaccinated. It is also very reassuring to see further evidence that giving the vaccine to pregnant women is safe for both mother and baby."

Whooping cough is a disease that can cause long bouts of coughing and choking, which can make it hard to breathe. It can be very serious for young children, and potentially fatal for babies under the age of one.

(JP/MH)

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