GPs in Belper are offering pregnant women the whooping cough vaccine following a sharp rise in the number of young babies who have died from the disease.
The temporary vaccine programme was launched by the Department of Health to boost the short-term immunity passed on by pregnant women to protect their newborn babies – who normally cannot be vaccinated until two months of age.
Nationally, nine babies have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under three months old – more than double the 115 cases reported in the whole of 2011, according to the Health Protection Agency.
The vaccine will be offered to women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy, even if they have already had the whooping cough jab.
Dr Bruce Laurence, deputy director of public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “Whooping cough is highly contagious, and usually starts with a persistent dry cough which progresses to intense bouts of coughing.
“We are asking all women who are 28 weeks pregnant or more to contact their GP to get their whooping cough vaccination, even if they’ve had the vaccine before, as it will boost their immunity and protect their child in their first weeks of life from a serious infection which can stop the baby breathing, lead to pneumonia, brain damage, weight loss and, in some cases, death.
GP’s offering the service include Appletree Medical Practice in Duffield, and Whitemoor Medical Centre and Riversdale Surgery, Belper.