Parents urged to vaccinate children as whooping cough cases soar

Ten per cent of kids miss booster jag at age three in Lothians. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Ten per cent of kids miss booster jag at age three in Lothians. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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CASES of whooping cough are soaring in the Lothians, new figures have revealed, as health chiefs today urged families to ensure their children are vaccinated against the disease.

At least 75 patients have been treated for the condition in the first six months of this year.

The figure marked a substantial increase on the 27 confirmed cases throughout 2011 and just eight in 2010.

Often associated with Victorian times, whooping cough has been on the rise in recent years with GPs reporting 873 cases Scotland-wide this year.

Elsewhere in the UK, five babies have died during the current outbreak, which began at the end of last year.

Children are offered the whooping cough vaccine as part of the “five in one” vaccine at two, three and four months, which also protects against diphtheria, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b and tetanus and which has a nearly 98 per cent take up.

However, a booster dose given at age three and necessary to ensure continuing protection is missed by just under ten per cent of children in the Lothians, which could explain the current prevalence.

The condition takes its name from the “whooping” sound made by young children in particular as they breathe in during coughing fits. It can lead to health complications and even death. Those under two months still to be given the vaccine are most at risk.

New figures from NHS 
Lothian also revealed that doctors are seeing a rise in cases of measles in teenagers, believed to be related to the MMR inoculation scare a decade ago.

Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, said with 94 per cent uptake for the first MMR jab, Edinburgh has the highest protection for an urban population in the UK.

However, just 90.5 per cent of families ensure their children have the booster at a later date, short of the 95 per cent needed to ensure protection across the community.

He told the Evening News: “Immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect children and our communities against serious diseases.

“Over the past year we have seen an increase in the number of confirmed cases of measles and whooping cough.

“We would encourage parents to ensure their children are up to date with their routine vaccinations to protect themselves and others.”

With measles and the MMR jab, immunisation rates dropped from 94 per cent to 88 per cent in the region over claims the jab was linked to autism. As a result GPs saw 20 cases of the contagious respiratory system infection last year, compared with fewer than five in 2009.

Dr McCormick added: “For MMR, as with other immunisations like whooping cough, it’s not too late to be immunised if you missed out or missed a booster in the past – whatever your age.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com