A vaccine to protect against whooping cough has been given to 44% of expectant mothers in the last two months, official figures have revealed.
Statistics from the Department of Health show that health professionals administered the vaccine to approximately 18,000 pregnant women in October.
And the Department of Health is keen to increase the number of mothers-to-be who are given the vaccine, which protects against whooping cough bacteria which can be fatal in babies and young children.
The number of patients with whooping cough, which causes extreme coughing fits, has risen over the past few months. There have been more than 7,000 cases so far in 2012 - seven times the total number of patients diagnosed with whooping cough last year.
And so far this year the illness has killed 13 babies under the age of three months.
The vaccination programme, which was launched at the beginning of October, aims to immunise all pregnant women between 28 and 38 weeks gestation. It is hoped the jab will help give newborn babies short-term protection from whooping cough until they can receive the vaccination themselves at two months old.
Repevax, the vaccine being used in the UK, is similar to one which has been given to US women during pregnancy since last year.