Pregnant women will be offered the whooping cough jab for the first time to protect their newborn babies, after the worst outbreak of the disease in over a decade.
From Monday, the Government will offer the vaccine to 650,000 mums-to-be who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant during routine antenatal appointments.
This means newborns will have antibodies to help protect them against whooping cough in the first few weeks of life because they’re not usually vaccinated before they are 2 months old.
The Department for Health said the vaccine is safe for pregnant women.
Director of immunisation Professor David Salisbury said: “The vaccine that we are offering to pregnant women has been recommended by experts and a similar vaccine is already given to pregnant women in the US.
“If you are pregnant, getting vaccinated is the best way you can protect your baby against whooping cough.”
So far this year, 9 babies have died from whooping cough and there have been 302 cases of the disease in babies under 12 weeks.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can cause severe coughing, followed by a gasp known as a ‘whoop’.
Babies are currently given a whooping cough jab when they are 8 weeks old, followed by boosters at 3 and 4 months old.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health announced it is also considering vaccinating newborn babies against the disease.
Pregnant women are also being urged to have the flu jab, as seasonal flu can be a serious illness, particularly for those in the ‘at risk’ groups.