Pregnant women in the Black Country are being reminded to come forward for a whooping cough vaccination, as cases continue to rise.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs and airways. It spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems, especially in babies and young children.

Initial symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, including a runny nose and a mild fever. After a week, the infection can develop into coughing bouts that are often worse at night. Some babies and adults may make a ‘whoop’ sound and have difficulty breathing after coughing.

Mums-to-be are offered the vaccine between 16 and 32 weeks of pregnancy so their baby has protection against whooping cough until they are old enough to have the routine immunisation at 8 weeks old.

All babies are given three doses of the 6-in-1 jab combination vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age to protect against whooping cough and other serious diseases, such as diphtheria and polio, with a pre-school booster offered at 3 years 4 months. It's best to have them on time, but children can still have the 6-in-1 vaccine up to the age of 10.

The NHS has created a video with Rickell Bailey, the midwifery led unit manager at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, to explain why the whooping cough vaccine is important. You can watch the video on YouTube.

Liz Punter, Midwife at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, also explains why pregnant women should come forward for a vaccine. She said: “The only way you can help protect your baby from getting whooping cough in their first few weeks after birth is by having the whooping cough vaccination yourself while you are pregnant.

“The best time to get vaccinated to protect your baby from whooping cough is from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks of pregnancy. This maximises the chance that your baby will be protected from birth, through the transfer of your antibodies before they are born.

“If for any reason you miss having the vaccine, you can still have it up until you go into labour. At this stage of pregnancy, having the vaccination may not directly protect your baby, but would help protect you from whooping cough and from passing it on to your baby.

“Timely vaccination in pregnancy and in infancy are both important to protect vulnerable young babies and children from serious disease. So, if you’re pregnant and have not yet had the whooping cough vaccine, or are unsure about getting it, please speak to your midwife or GP for advice.”

If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated, or if your child hasn’t yet had the 6-in-1 combination vaccine, please contact your GP surgery to book an appointment to get the protection from whooping cough as soon as possible. If you’re unsure if your child has had the vaccine, check your child’s red book (health record).

For more information on the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy, please visit the Black Country 0-18 website.


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