NHS “regret” delay in whooping cough vaccine

Baby bump. Pic: vintagecat

The Tower Hamlets whooping cough vaccination programme has finally rolled out after complaints and an on-line petition.

Gabby Shiner-Hill, a design manager, who is in her 39th week of pregnancy, was refused a vaccination against whooping cough on numerous occasions by her local surgery in Bethnal Green.

She had visited her GP for the vaccine because, on September 28, the Department of Health announced it would be available to all women who are between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant.

The number of babies contracting whooping cough – a potentially fatal and highly contagious illness – has almost doubled since 2011, the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show.

Shiner-Hill set up an online petition after being told by staff at the Bethnal Green Health Centre that their nurses had not yet been authorized to administer the vaccine by the Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Her petition, ‘Tower Hamlets PCT: Give pregnant women the whooping cough vaccine’, which has 88 supporters, includes a letter to the Tower Hamlets Trust. It said:

‘Why is there a delay from Tower Hamlets PCT? The vaccine is in the surgeries and there are pregnant women and unborn babies who could be protected but instead there is a delay that threatens the health of women and children across the Borough.’

Shiner-Hill told EastLondonLines that she was worried about missing the ‘peak’ time frame of 28 to 38 weeks, and had concerns about the likelihood of her child contracting whooping cough in Tower Hamlets.

She said: “Tower Hamlets is a really populated area, it has had tuberculosis issues in the past, the community has a lot of babies and whooping cough is highly contagious.

“The flu vaccine has been everywhere and has been rolled out really well, which makes you wonder why haven’t they done the same for the whooping cough vaccination.”

After enquires by EastLondonLines, Dr Somen Banerjee, Joint Director of Public Health for the for NHS North East London and the City, which is accountable for Tower Hamlets health services, has issued a statement saying he regrets the time it has taken for some mothers to receive the vaccination.

He said: “We are pleased that so many mothers want to take advantage of this vaccine and regret any delay that people trying to get the vaccination during the last week may have experienced.

Banerjee confirmed that the vaccination is now available in all the GP practices throughout Tower Hamlets, and strongly encouraged those who meet the criteria to ‘take advantage of the free vaccination’.

He said: “Every pregnant woman who is 28 weeks and over can access this injection through the surgery they are registered with.

“Please talk to your GP, practice nurse or midwife to get more information about the vaccine.”

The initial announcement about the vaccine came from Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

She said:  “Whooping cough is highly contagious and newborns are particularly vulnerable.

“9 infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been 302 cases of the disease in children under 3 months old.

“It’s vital that babies are protected from the day they are born – that’s why we are offering the vaccine to all pregnant women.”

The vaccination aims to boost the short-term immunity in mothers which will be passed on to newborn babies, who normally cannot be vaccinated themselves until they are 2 months old.

More information about the vaccine can be found here.

Gabby Shiner-Hill has now had her vaccination.

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