LONDON, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Physicians in Britain say they are considering vaccinating newborns with the whooping vaccine because of an outbreak affecting more than 3,500.
This year, the number of cases of whooping cough, or pertussis is three times higher than in all of last year, and edging close to the record year -- since the vaccine was introduced in 1957 -- of 1994 when there were 3,964 cases, including three deaths, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Infants are given the whooping cough vaccine as part of the five-in-one vaccine at eight weeks, 12 weeks and at 16 weeks of age with a booster given before starting school, but since there have been six deaths this years of newborns, government physicians are considering changing the recommendation.
The Department of Health's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization is also considering if the pertussis vaccine should be recommended for pregnant women to protect their child at birth, and if close family members in contact with the baby be vaccinated as well.
Dr. Gayatri Amirthalingam said whooping cough affects people at all ages but is especially dangerous for young babies because they don't have the full impact of the vaccine. Teens and young adults can also be at higher risk because the vaccine tends to wear off.
Before the vaccine began being routinely used, outbreaks in Britain affected up to 150,000 people a year and contributed to about 300 deaths annually, officials said.