AM backs vaccine programme after near-fatal brush with whooping cough
4:22pm Friday 28th September 2012 in News
Mid and west Wales AM, Joyce Watson, is urging mums-to-be to get vaccinated against an illness that nearly killed her as a child.
The whooping cough vaccine will be offered to pregnant women in Wales from October. Experts say the vaccination will help strengthen their newborn baby’s immune system against a debilitating illness which is on the increase.
Mrs Watson had whooping cough three times before the age of ten. It was the first bout as a six week old baby that nearly killed her and left her in hospital for months.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Ruth Hussey explained that newborn babies are affected most severely by the highly contagious illness, and are most at risk of developing complications.
While there have been no deaths in Wales, nine infants in England have died as a result of whooping cough this year.
“It’s vital that babies are protected from the day they are born that’s why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women,” she said.
Mrs Watson’s experience of whooping cough didn’t end as a baby; as a toddler she was again hospitalised with the illness and at the age of nine she had it for the last time.
“That’s the one I remember,” she said. “It’s a terrifying thing for a young child to have.
“I remember really struggling to get any breath at all. You have a real bout of coughing and then go into a whoop where you are gasping for breath.
“It’s so violent it makes you sick and is accompanied by fever and headaches. There are long lasting health complications as well, such as chest weakness.
“I commend the decision to make immunisation available. I want to use my experience to urge any parent, or parent to be, to take up the vaccine.
“As a parent you don’t want to see your child suffering. As a child you don’t want to suffer yourself.”
Whooping cough can be treated successfully with antibiotics and most people make a full recovery, but it is highly contagious.
Figures for England and Wales, released today (Friday) by the Health Protection Agency, show a large increase in all cases, including in young infants. The figures show:
• In the first eight months of the year, 302 cases were reported in infants under 12 weeks of age – more than double the 115 cases reported in the same period in 2011;
• There were nine deaths of young children in England the same period – up from seven in the whole of 2011; and
• From January to August 2012, 4,791 cases in all ages were reported – three times more than the whole of 2011 which saw 1118 cases.