Mums-to-be in Tower Hamlets urged to have whooping cough vaccine

Pregnant mums in Tower Hamlets are being urged to protect their babies against a potentially deadly disease, which appears to be making a devastating comeback, by getting vaccinated against whooping cough.

Nine babies under the age of two months have already died this year from whooping cough, a bacterial lung infection that can cause brain damage and pneumonia.

The national immunisation programme doesn’t begin until babies are two months old, but mothers who have the jab ensure that their newborns will be protected for the first few weeks of their life – until the babies are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.

The number of whooping cough cases has spiked dramatically in the past two years – there were less than 500 patients suffering from the illness in England and Wales in 2010 but that figure has jumped to 4,400 confirmed cases so far this year.

Now the chief medical officer for England and Wales is recommending that all mums-to-be get vaccinated and Tower Hamlets health bosses have recommended the jab to women in the last three months of their pregnancy.

Director of public health for Tower Hamlets, Dr Somen Banerjee, said: “Vaccination is one of the safest ways to prevent infectious disease. The vaccine is safe for both mother and unborn child. It is much safer to have the vaccine than to risk whooping cough in a newborn baby.

“Pregnant women who have been vaccinated against whooping cough before becoming pregnant, or who have had the disease themselves, should still be vaccinated once they are pregnant to protect their newborn child.

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“The vaccine also protects against polio, diphtheria and tetanus. It is the same vaccine that is routinely given to children before they start school.”

Parents should still ensure their babies receive the usual immunisations at two months, he added.

The vaccine is available in Tower Hamlets at GP practices, and pregnant women should ask their doctor, practice nurse or midwife about how to get the vaccine.