Whooping cough can cause bleeding in the eye
Vaccinating parents of newborns against whooping cough could prevent fatal infections in babies, say doctors.
A team in Edinburgh called for the policy change after the deaths of two young infants from whooping cough in their hospital.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said infections among adults are rising and babies are vulnerable until they are first immunised at two months.
Another option would be to give teenagers a booster vaccine, they said.
UK advisors have considered but rejected the idea of an extra pertussis booster.
Children are vaccinated at two, three and four months and again before they start school - a programme which has been very successful in cutting infection rates.
But immunity is not lifelong and older teenagers and adults are still susceptible to whooping cough (pertussis).
The infection can be particularly aggressive in young babies who pick it up from older family members.
Dr Ulf Theilen, consultant in paediatric intensive care at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, said babies who are too young to be vaccinated now account for most hospitalisations, complications and deaths from the infection.
In the past few years, the hospital had cared for a one-month old boy who died within 24 hours of being admitted to hospital and a six-week old girl who died within 30 hours despite the best possible treatment in intensive care.
"What's important to understand is whooping cough is still perceived as a classical childhood disease but vaccination has been very successful and it's uncommon for children now," said Dr Theilen.
"But once you're an older teenager or an adult you can get it again."
However, he pointed out that although pertussis was a "devastating illness" in young babies, it was still rare with an estimated five to 10 deaths a year in the UK.
Several countries have now introduced booster doses for adolescents, including the US and Australia.
France and Germany recommend a targeted booster for parents and healthcare workers in close contact with young children.
Professor Adam Finn, head of the department of child health at the University of Bristol, said vaccinating parents of newborns against pertussis was one approach suggested by the Global Pertussis Initiative.
"Pertussis infections in young infants are rare but, in a way, are the only ones that really matter and a lot of what is done is aimed at preventing them," he said.
Dr David Elliman, consultant community paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital agreed with the Edinburgh team that pertussis infection in young babies was a very serious problem.
But he said it would be easier to add a booster into the immunisations given to school leavers.
"Doing something like immunising mothers and fathers of newly delivered babies would be far more difficult to implement."
A Department of Health spokesperson said the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) looked last year at the possibility of introducing a booster vaccination against whooping cough for adolescents and parents of young babies.
However, it decided not to recommend any changes to the current whooping cough immunisation schedule but to continue monitoring the situation carefully.
"Recent statistics do not indicate a rise in the number of Whooping cough cases.
"In fact, whooping cough rates have continued to go down following the introduction of the preschool booster, and benefits have also been seen from the accelerated schedule."