I know that many of you, especially midwives, health visitors, practice nurses and others working with pregnant women, will already be informed about this programme. However, we know that people often ask us questions about current health issues because we are nurses and our advice is trusted.
An advertising campaign via search engines will begin next week and so I want to share the information about this programme more widely. It is a real opportunity for all nurses to contribute to sharing an important public health message. The details of the programme can be found through the link below and I hope you find the information useful.
A temporary programme to vaccinate pregnant women against whooping cough has been introduced.
Cases of whooping cough (pertussis) have been rising sharply over the last year and rates of disease in infants younger than 3 months of age have reached levels not seen for over a decade.
To date this year there have been more than 6,000 cases of whooping cough reported in England and Wales and 10 babies have died from the disease.*
Babies under 2 months are at greatest risk of severe complications and death from whooping cough. The vaccination aims to boost the short term immunity passed on by pregnant women to their babies until the routine immunisation programme can begin at 2 months of age.
The vaccination programme has been introduced following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - the Government’s independent experts on vaccination.
A single dose of the Repevax vaccine should be offered to all pregnant women at a routine antenatal appointment between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy. It will be given by either a midwife, GP or practice nurse.
All pregnant women will be encouraged to get the vaccine, even those who have already been immunised, as immunity wanes over time and people can become re-infected.
Whooping cough is a serious illness. It causes long bouts of coughing and choking, making it hard to breathe and, for babies who contract it, can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia or brain damage. Most babies who contract whooping cough will need hospital treatment, and very severe whooping cough can lead to death.
* Figures have been updated on 26 October to reflect the latest figures released by HPA on 25 October 2012