World Immunisation Week

Maternal whooping cough vaccine

2022 data shows the average vaccine uptake across England has dropped to 61.5%, its lowest level since 2016. The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine is given to pregnant women to help protect their babies against whooping cough from birth during their first weeks of life. Whooping cough can be a serious, life threatening disease in young babies, usually requiring hospital treatment.

The latest UKHSA data on the maternal whooping cough vaccine programme shows that uptake has dropped to its lowest level in 7 years.

Data for 2022 shows an average uptake across England of 61.5%, a decrease of 3.9% since 2021 and 7.6% from 2020. Coverage in London is particularly low at 41.4%.

The maternal vaccine provides newborn babies with protection against whooping cough which lasts until they are old enough to be routinely vaccinated, with the immunity from the mother passed through the placenta during pregnancy.

Maternal vaccination was first introduced in 2012 due to very high rates of whooping cough. A study published last year found the vaccine provided 89% protection against hospitalisation and 97% protection against death from whooping cough in babies born to vaccinated mothers.

It is important that babies continue to be protected against this serious disease, though rates have fallen since 2012. Whooping cough is associated with difficulty breathing, and can lead to pneumonia, permanent brain damage and even death, particularly in infants under 6 months.

The whooping cough vaccination programme for pregnant women has been hugely successful in protecting newborn babies in the first weeks of life from serious disease and hospitalisation.

Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA said:

Whooping cough can be very serious for young babies, particularly under 6 months, and can lead to pneumonia, permanent brain damage and even death. That’s why it’s so important that all expectant mothers get the vaccine at the recommended time from 20 weeks, to give their babies the best protection from this serious and highly contagious disease.

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