More pregnant women should be encouraged to take up the whooping cough vaccine, after new figures revealed the disease remains at raised levels in England.
Figures from Public Health England show the number of confirmed cases of pertussis increased to 1,744 in 2015, up from 1,412 in 2014.
The respiratory disease is a threat to babies born to unvaccinated mothers in their first few weeks of life.
It can develop into a cough lasting two or three months, and in some cases can be fatal.
“It’s important that pregnant women visit their GP surgery or midwife to get vaccinated, ideally between weeks 28 and 32 of their pregnancy”
Dr Mary Ramsay
The vaccine has been offered to pregnant women since a national outbreak of the disease in 2012.
But PHE data published this week shows that in the year up to March 2015, only 56% of pregnant women in England received the vaccination.
Research has shown babies born to women who were vaccinated at least a week before birth had a 91% reduced risk of becoming ill with whooping cough, compared to those whose mothers had not been vaccinated.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, noted the vaccine was highly effective.
“The immunity you get from the vaccine passes to your baby and provides them with protection until they are old enough to be routinely vaccinated against whooping cough.
“It’s important that pregnant women visit their GP surgery or midwife to get vaccinated, ideally between weeks 28 and 32 of their pregnancy,” she said.
The Royal College of Midwives echoed the appeal to pregnant women to get the vaccine.
Louise Silverton, director for midwives at the RCM, said: “Whooping cough can have fatal consequences for a child and they are particularly vulnerable in the first two months of life, when they are effectively unprotected against this disease until they have their first vaccination at two months.”