Pregnant women advised to get whooping cough shots

January 10, 2019 17:30
According to Dr. Wong Ka-hing (inset, left) of the Centre for Health Protection, there were 110 whooping cough cases last year, with two in five involving babies aged six months or below. Photos: HKEJ, Now News video/screenshot

An expert panel set up by the health department has advised pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough to help reduce the risks of their new born from contracting the infection.

The recommendation from the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases, an entity established by the Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP), came after Hong Kong recorded a significant increase last year of newly born babies with whooping cough problem.

Holding a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue, the panel suggested that the situation could improve if pregnant women receive the vaccine shot before giving birth, so as to pass on the effect to the baby in the womb.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough -- or, in China, 100-day cough -- is a respiratory illness and highly contagious bacterial disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those infected may initially have non-specific symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and mild cough, which are similar to those of the common cold, followed later by weeks of severe coughing fits.

There were a total of 110 people suffering from the disease last year, with the number reaching a 21-year high, said Dr. Wong Ka-hing, who is the CHP controller.

Among them, two in five were babies aged six months or below, Wong added.

Given the situation, the committee decided to change the current practice, in which babies are not given their first pertussis shot until they are two months old, and let pregnant women receive the shot before giving birth, he said.

The purpose is to prevent babies from being infected with the disease while they are still in the womb, Wong said, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The committee said implementation details would require further deliberation by related departments in the government.

At the moment, there is no timetable or financial budget set aside for the new measure, according to the panel.

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