Safety of pertussis vaccination in pregnant women in UK: observational study

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Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Symptoms can initially be mild, but serious and fatal complications can occur, particularly in children aged under 3 months. In the United Kingdom, a primary course of pertussis vaccination is recommended from the age of 2 months. Uptake for the infant vaccine, and for the additional preschool booster, is high, and in recent decades pertussis has been well controlled. As elsewhere, however, children remain vulnerable before their first vaccination series.

There are cyclical peaks in rates of pertussis infection, and a sharp increase in confirmed cases was observed in the UK towards the end of 2011. This increase continued in 2012, with a particularly high rate in infants under 3 months and an increase in infant deaths related to pertussis. This led the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to recommend the introduction of a temporary vaccination programme targeting pregnant women at between 28 and 38 weeks’ gestation, the aim being to protect children against pertussis before they reach their first routine immunisation. This programme was introduced uniformly across all four countries in the UK.

Researchers from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (UK, London) describe the growing identified cohort, after the first six months of the programme, and present comparative analyses investigating the risk of a range of predefined events. To our knowledge, this is the first large epidemiological study on the safety of pertussis vaccination in pregnancy.

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Source:
BMJ

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