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28 September 2012, 17:38
Pregnant women are to be vaccinated against whooping cough, health officials said, after the biggest outbreak of the illness for two decades claimed the lives of nine babies.
So far this year nine infants under the age of three months have died in England as a result of the infectious disease.
There have been 4,791 confirmed cases in England and Wales between January and August - four times more than the total figure for 2011, when there were 1,118 cases, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government's principal medical adviser, said that mothers-to-be will be offered the vaccination to protect their newborn babies.
Youngsters cannot receive the jab until they are two months old. Vaccinating their mothers before they are born will boost their immunity until they reach the age they can get the injection themselves, Dame Sally said.
From Monday, women across the UK who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant will be offered the vaccination.
Dr Jenny Harries from NHS Norfolk is telling Heart why they want to offer it: "Little babies don't respond to vaccinations very well and so if we give the vaccine early they actually don't respond. So what we're trying to do here is boost the Mum's antibodies and they will pass to the baby so that when the child's born it has the maximum protection."
For more information go to the Department Of Health website at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/index.htm