Fewer babies in Bolton were vaccinated against whooping cough last year than a decade ago, new figures show.

UK Health and Security Authority figures show 91.1 per cent of babies in Bolton had received their six-in-one vaccine by their first birthday, which provides immunisation against a range of diseases including whooping cough.

This was down from 94.9 per cent the year before, and 95.7 per cent a decade earlier.

It means Bolton did not reach the 95 per cent vaccination target set by the UKHSA.

The UKHSA confirmed five babies in England died after being diagnosed with whooping cough in the three months to March.

Meanwhile, in the year to April 21, GPs nationally reported 9,575 suspected cases of whooping cough to the UKHSA.

This included 32 in Bolton.

Not all these cases will be confirmed as whooping cough. The UKHSA, which does not release local data, said there were 2,793 confirmed cases in England in the three months to March.

That compares to just 858 cases for the whole of 2023, while in March alone, some 1,319 cases were reported, according to the provisional data.

Lynn Donkin, Director of Public Health, Bolton Council, said: "We encourage parents to speak to their GPs about childhood immunisations as these provide safe and effective protection against diseases including whooping cough, which spreads very easily and can sometimes cause serious problems.

“In addition to the national response to the outbreak, Bolton is working with its local health partners to ensure that parents are aware of routine vaccination to protect against whooping cough. 

“Parents will be invited to vaccinate their babies against whooping cough and other childhood diseases at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, and later by a pre-school booster. 

“ It is also important that pregnant women have the whooping cough vaccine.   

“Getting vaccinated when pregnant protects babies from having whooping cough in the first few weeks of life, when they are more likely to be poorly. 

“Ask your GP about vaccination if you are pregnant Whooping cough vaccination in pregnancy - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

“Anyone concerned about their baby’s health should contact their GP in the first instance or check online for help at Whooping cough - NHS (www.nhs.uk) .”

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Pregnant women can also receive a whooping cough vaccine, though just 59.3 per cent in England did between October and December 2023.

This was down almost 16 per cent on the same quarter in 2016-17.

The World Health Organisation says 95 per cent of children should be vaccinated against preventable diseases such as whooping cough.

It comes as cases of the respiratory disease have exploded this year, with the UKHSA confirming the number of reported cases in 2024 is more than three times as many as last year.

A leading health expert has warned more babies will die if vaccination rates across the country do not rise.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: "With cases of whooping cough continuing to rise sharply across the country, and today’s figures sadly showing five infant deaths, it is vital that families come forward to get the protection they need.

"If you are pregnant and have not been vaccinated yet, or your child is not up to date with whooping cough or other routine vaccinations, please contact your GP as soon as possible, and if you or your child show symptoms ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111."

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