Pertussis vaccine 'should be extended to teens'

The RCGP's immunisation lead has called for teenagers to be vaccinated against pertussis in the wake of the ongoing whooping cough outbreak.

Vaccine containing pertussis antigens could be used as booster jab in the childhood vaccination programme at age 15 (Photo: SPL)

Berkshire GP Dr George Kassianos said the NHS 'can do more and we should do more' to protect the population from the disease by vaccinating teenagers.

Pregnant women can get the pertussis jab from Monday as part of a DH programme to protect mums-to-be and newborns from the disease, a move welcomed by the RCGP.

But Dr Kassianos believes 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.

The UK is experiencing the largest outbreak of whooping cough in 20 years, with 4,791 confirmed cases occurred in the first eight months of 2012. Nine infants have died.

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.'

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