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Whooping cough cases rising

Mother smiling at her small baby

Whooping cough (pertussis) cases are rising and babies who are too young to start their vaccinations are at greatest risk. Whooping cough is a serious infection that causes long bouts of coughing and choking, making it hard to breathe. 913 confirmed cases in England in February, compared to 555 cases in January. This is compared to 858 reported cases in 2023. Of the 1468 cases confirmed between January and February 2024, around half (729 cases, 49.7%) were in those aged 15 years or older and 30.0% were in children aged between 10 and 14 years (441 cases).

Young babies with whooping cough are often very unwell and many are likely to need hospital treatment as it can lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage. If you are pregnant, you can help protect your baby by getting vaccinated – ideally from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks pregnant. The immunity you get from the vaccine passes to your baby through the placenta and protects them until they are old enough to be vaccinated at 8 weeks old.

Vaccination in pregnant women is 97% effective at preventing death in young babies from whooping cough.

The whooping cough vaccine has been given during pregnancy for over 10 years, and getting vaccinated whilst pregnant is highly effective in protecting your baby from developing whooping cough in the first few weeks of their life.

If for any reason you miss having the vaccine, you can still have it up until the end of your pregnancy. You can get a free whooping cough vaccine from your GP and through some antenatal clinics. You may be offered the vaccination at a routine antenatal appointment from around 16 weeks of your pregnancy.

If you are more than 16 weeks pregnant and have not been offered the vaccine, talk to your midwife or GP and make an appointment to get vaccinated.