Women in Derry who are 28 weeks into their pregnancy or more are to be offered a vaccination against whooping cough following a dramatic rise in the illness in Northern Ireland over the last year.
In 2011 15 cases of whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, were recorded in Northern Ireland throughout the entire year. This year, so far, 192 cases have been recorded - with the biggest risk group being newborn babies. This year the Public Health Authority have revealed that cases of whooping cough among infants is at its highest in a decade.
A spokesperson said: “The PHA is asking expectant mothers to await notification from their GP to ensure the programme can be implemented efficiently and effectively across all areas.
However, while these arrangements are being put in place, women who are already over 35 weeks pregnant may wish to contact their GPs directly to make an appointment to receive the vaccine.
“If the vaccine is given less than two weeks before giving birth, antibodies may not have time to develop and be passed to the baby in sufficient quantities. However it will still help protect the mother and reduce the risk of her infecting her baby.
“Babies still need to be vaccinated as normal starting at two months old.
The vaccine which will be given to expectant mothers through this programme, called Repevax®, will also provide protection against diphtheria, tetanus and polio, in addition to whooping cough.
There is no evidence to suggest that the use of this vaccine during pregnancy is unsafe for either the expectant mother or their unborn baby.
“The vaccine is not live and cannot cause whooping cough.
“There may be some mild side effects at the site the vaccine is given, such as swelling, redness or tenderness, although serious side effects are extremely rare.”