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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
New jab against whooping cough
Pre-school age children will receive the jab
Pre-school children are to be offered an extra vaccination against whooping cough following warnings that they might be vulnerable.

Normally, the jab is given in the early months of life - approximately 95% of babies receive it.

However, there is some evidence that babies are still catching the illness from older siblings or their parents.

Many countries across Europe, and the US, have already introduced whooping cough vaccine boosters into their routine vaccination programmes.

The recent recommendation of the government's own advisory committee on vaccination was that a combined diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine be introduced at approximately four years of age.

We expect to see pertussis deaths and illnesses greatly reduced

Professor Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer
Whooping cough, or pertussis, can cause a severe respiratory infection.

Pertussis is most dangerous to children less than one year old.

Complications for infants include pneumonia, convulsions, and in rare cases brain damage or death.

Serious complications are less likely in older children and adults.

'Significant burden'

Professor Liam Donaldson, the government's Chief Medical Officer, said: "Despite the success of the whooping cough vaccine, there has remained a small but significant burden of disease.

"These newly-available accellular pertussis vaccines will allow children to have their protection boosted.

"We expect to see pertussis deaths and illnesses greatly reduced by this improvement to our immunisation programme."

A study, funded by the Department of Health, and published in the journal Vaccine in July found that the booster jab offered good protection against the disease.

In addition, it found no safety concerns connected with the vaccine - with no increase in reactions or fevers in the 10 days after immunisation.

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