The Department of Health is considering vaccinating newborn babies against whooping cough in reaction to a dramatic rise in cases.
The department’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation is investigating possible solutions for a surge in cases of the condition in England and Wales, which are already three times higher this year than for the whole of 2011.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can cause severe coughing, followed by a gasp known as a ‘whoop’.
So far in 2012, 3,513 cases have been reported, 235 of which were in babies under three months old.
Currently babies are offered the vaccine at two, three and four months, but the recent surge has prompted suggestions that the vaccination programme should be expanded.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health has confirmed they are “investigating” the increase, saying, “The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation is looking at whether more people need to be vaccinated. Careful consideration is always needed around expanding any programme”.
Under the suggested expansion, newborn babies, pregnant women and their families could all be offered the jab.