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Whooping cough: Vaccine expert 'very worried' by whooping cough deaths

If you are pregnant, you should also have the whooping cough vaccine – ideally between 16 and 32 weeks.

Children who have not been vaccinated can still get the jab up to the age of 10. Vaccination offers enough protection that, if the child is infected, the illness will be mild.

Prof Kamila Hawthorne, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said it was “highly concerning” that such a high number of whooping cough cases had been confirmed.

She said whooping cough was an uncomfortable experience for most patients, causing restless nights and shortness of breath – but for some it could be “far more serious”.

Dr David Elliman, consultant in community child health at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, said: “While the vaccines against whooping cough are not 100% protective, they enormously reduce the chances of babies dying.

“Parents should ensure that their babies are immunised on time, but as importantly, that they get the vaccine when pregnant.”

He also said the rise in cases of this infection, as well as of measles, should be “a wake-up call to the NHS”, adding: “For too long, successive governments have paid lip service to the importance of preventative healthcare. It is now time that appropriate resources are provided to back up the rhetoric.”

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