Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women

Behind the Headlines

Friday November 30 2012

Vaccinating pregnant women may help stop the spread of highly contagious whooping cough

“Whooping cough cases are higher than at any point in the last twenty years and 13 babies have died from the disease, official figures have revealed” The Daily Telegraph reports.

This sad news reinforces the need for pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

All pregnant women are now offered vaccination against whooping cough when they are 28-38 weeks pregnant. This is due to the sharp rise in the number of whooping cough cases in the UK.

Whooping cough is a serious illness. Babies who get it can develop severe complications such as pneumonia and brain damage. Most babies with whooping cough will need hospital treatment, and when whooping cough is very severe they may die.

There is a large outbreak of whooping cough in the UK at the moment, with three times more cases in the general population than there were last year. In the first ten months of this year, there have been 1,614 reported cases. It has been confirmed that 13 babies have died. Babies are not vaccinated against whooping cough until they are two months old, so those who are too young to be vaccinated are at greatest risk.

You should be offered the whooping cough vaccination at a routine antenatal appointment when you are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant. Getting vaccinated while you’re pregnant could help to protect your baby from developing whooping cough in its first few weeks of life.


Further information on whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy

For more information on the guidance on the whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women please see Whooping cough and pregnancy.


Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on twitter.

Edited by NHS Choices

Links to the headlines

Whooping cough cases highest for 20 years. The Daily Telegraph, November 30 2012

Three babies die from whooping cough in biggest outbreak for 20 years. The Independent, November 30 2012

Whooping cough claims lives of 13 babies in past year in worst outbreak in more than two decades. Daily Mail, November 30 2012

Whooping cough: Three more babies die in outbreak. BBC News, November 30 2012

Further reading

Press release

Department of Health. Pregnant women to be offered whooping cough vaccination. Published September 28 2012


Department of Health. Whooping cough and pregnancy. Your questions answered on how to help protect your baby (PDF, 280kb). September 2012


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