Whooping cough vaccination for pregnant women in Gloucestershire
THE county is gearing up for next week's groundbreaking launch of whooping cough vaccinations for pregnant women.
NHS Gloucestershire welcomes the national move to treat hundreds of thousands of mums-to-be to protect babies against the worst outbreak of the potentially fatal infection for more than a decade.
Ten very young babies – at the greatest risk of serious complications – have died in the UK this year.
Currently babies are not vaccinated until they are between two to four months.
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The radical move of a pre-natal whooping cough vaccine should boost a mother-to-be's defences, and these antibodies are then passed through the placenta to the baby.
And there are no safety fears with the treatment.
NHS Gloucestershire public health consultant Caryn Cox said: "We strongly encourage all eligible pregnant women to ensure they receive the vaccination to give their baby the best protection against whooping cough.
"The vaccination will be offered to pregnant women between 28-38 weeks and will be available from your GP surgery. "Your GP will be in touch if you are eligible for the vaccination. "However, if you don't hear from them, please contact your surgery for further advice.
"The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has no concerns about the safety of this vaccination."
But Mrs Cox also stressed the earlier treatment was a crucial extra step but not the final one.
"It's also important to remind parents to ensure their children are vaccinated against whooping cough as this will continue their protection through childhood," she said.
"Parents should also be alert to the signs and symptoms – which include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic "whoop" sound in young children but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults.
"It is also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection."
Medical experts say whooping cough cases surge every three to four years. The present serious outbreak began at the end of 2011.
The infection can stop the baby breathing or lead to pneumonia, brain damage, weight loss and death.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, affects all ages. The bacterial disease spreads when a carrier coughs and droplets are inhaled by another person.