Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly infectious disease affecting the respiratory tract caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.

In vulnerable groups it can result in severe illness and death.

Pertussis can affect people of any age, but babies under six months are at increased risk of severe illness, or complications, from pertussis.

To protect young infants in their first eight weeks of life a programme was introduced in October 2012 to offer pertussis vaccination to all pregnant women, giving passive immunological protection to infants shortly after birth.

The vaccine is given in pregnancy as a single dose.

It is recommended in every pregnancy.

The immunity young infants will receive from the mother provides only short-term protection.

Pertussis vaccination is also offered as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule. It is given at eight weeks of age.

It is important that infants are vaccinated as part of the routine childhood schedule in order to provide longer term protection.

More information about pertussis disease can be found on NHS inform (external website).

Last updated: 19 September 2023