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Teenagers should be vaccinated against whooping cough, RCGP says

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The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called for teenagers to be vaccinated against pertussis in the wake of the ongoing whooping cough outbreak.

This week Independent Nurse reported that the DH's chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said all pregnant women whooping cough vaccinations to protect their babies following a rise in deaths among infants.

But speaking to GP magazine Dr George Kassianos, the RCGP's immunisation lead, said the NHS 'can do more and we should do more' to protect the population from the disease by vaccinating teenagers.

Dr Kassianos said there is 'no reason' why a vaccine containing pertussis antigens could not be used for the fourth booster jab in the childhood vaccination programme at age 15 to encourage herd immunity.

Speaking to GP, Dr Kassianos said: 'We should be giving a pertussis booster to our schoolchildren. So many countries do so, including the US.

'This will ensure a reduction in the pertussis virus circulation, which will ultimate contribute towards protection not just of the individuals but also the infants at home, the parents, the adults, the elderly.'

He added: 'We are seeing increasingly larger number of patients with pertussis, of any age. The ultimate protection of our infants is when you immunise those around them or at least you reduce the virus circulation in the community.'

Health Protection Agency figures show in the first eight months of 2012, 302 cases of whooping cough, were reported in infants under 12 weeks of age - more than double the 115 cases reported in the same period in 2011 and there were nine deaths of young children in the same period - up from seven in the whole of 2011.

From January to August 2012, 4,791 cases in all ages were reported - three times more than 2011, during which there were 1,118 cases.

The vaccine will be offered to pregnant women, even if they have been previously immunised, during routine antenatal appointments with a nurse, midwife or GP.

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