Public Health Scotland (PHS) is encouraging pregnant women to ensure they are immunised against whooping cough.

The vaccine also offers vital protection to babies after birth until they are old enough to have the routine immunisation at 8 weeks old. 

Parents are encouraged to ensure their children are immunised against whooping cough, as it is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, causes long bouts of coughing. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • cold symptoms, such as runny nose, red and watery eyes, sore throat and slightly raised temperature
  • intense coughing bouts starting about a week later
  • coughing up thick mucus, which may be followed by vomiting
  • gasping for breath between coughs, which may cause a ‘whoop’ sound – although not everyone has this.

Notifications of whooping cough have increased in Scotland since the beginning of the year and confirmed cases are likely to rise in line with this. There have been no reported deaths from pertussis in Scotland this year, or since 2015.

Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, Head of Vaccination and Immunisation at PHS said:

“Whooping cough is spread by respiratory droplets, either directly between people or through contaminated items. It can cause severe illness and death, particularly in young unimmunised children. Babies under one year of age are most at risk.

“Whooping cough can be prevented with immunisation which is given to infants, younger children and pregnant women. Getting immunised during pregnancy is the best way to protect your baby in the first few vulnerable weeks of their life. All pregnant women are eligible for the whooping cough vaccine from week 16 of their pregnancy. The ideal time to get it is between weeks 16 and 32, but the sooner the better. The whooping cough vaccine is recommended every time you’re pregnant, even if you’ve had the vaccine before.”

Find out more about whooping cough on NHS Inform: Whooping cough | NHS inform

Pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their midwife about getting the whooping cough vaccine; and you can find more about pregnancy and baby immunisations: Pregnancy and baby - Immunisations in Scotland | NHS inform

Parents are encouraged to contact their local NHS Immunisation team to arrange for their children to get vaccinated if they have missed any doses.  Contact details can be found at or by calling 0800 22 44 88.

If you have any concerns about symptoms of whooping cough, speak to your GP practice or phone 111.

The latest data on case figures is available here.

The latest immunisation and vaccine-preventable diseases quarterly report (October-December 2023) is available here.

The next quarterly report which will include data on to 31 March will be published on 4 June 2024.

Last updated: 16 May 2024