Immunisation helps protect your baby when they need it most

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2024

Whooping cough cases are rising in London and the illness can be life-threatening for newborns. If you are pregnant, getting your vaccine when offered helps protect your baby in their first weeks of life.

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Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs and airways. Whooping cough is also sometimes known as the 100-day cough because of how long it takes to recover from it.

The first signs of whooping cough are very similar to those of a cold, with a runny nose and mild fever, followed a week later by symptoms including coughing that lasts for a few minutes, difficulty breathing after coughing, and thick mucus that may cause vomiting.

Whooping cough can affect people of all ages, and while it can be a very unpleasant illness for older vaccinated adolescents and adults, young babies who are too young to be fully protected through routine childhood vaccination are at increased risk of serious complications, which can be life-threatening and require hospital treatment.

Vaccine uptake among pregnant women is currently lower than needed to protect all newborn babies. By ensuring you receive the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant, you can give your young baby the best protection against this potentially dangerous illness in the first few weeks of their life.

Mums-to-be can contact their midwife or GP surgery if they have reached week 20 of their pregnancy and are unsure whether they have had the vaccine.

Parents can also protect their children by ensuring they receive their vaccines at the right time or catching up as soon as possible. If you are not sure if your child has had all their routine vaccinations, check their personal health record (Red Book), NHS App, or contact your GP practice.

Find out more about whooping cough, symptoms to look out for and how best to protect yourself and your children on the UK Health Security Agency's website.

Read about our local work, in partnership with the NHS and residents, to investigate childhood vaccination challenges and set out proposed solutions to help protect our communities in the Annual Director of Public Health Report 2024 - Moving the Mountain - Navigating Challenges in Childhood Vaccination.