NI families urged to get whooping cough jab after ‘significant rise’ in cases

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has urged parents to get their young children vaccinated amid a significant rise in cases of whooping cough in Northern Ireland.

The PHA said pregnant women should also take action after 769 cases of whooping cough were confirmed in the region so far this year, compared with just two between 2021 and 2023.

The PHA is urging families to book an appointment for the pertussis vaccine to help protect their children.

Louise Flanagan, PHA consultant in public health, said whooping cough spreads very easily and can make babies and young children in particular very ill.

“It sadly can even be fatal in young babies or people with heath conditions,” she said.

“However, the good news is that it can be prevented through vaccination, so it’s really important that parents get their babies vaccinated against it as part of the childhood vaccination programme, and that pregnant women also get vaccinated, as this will help protect their unborn baby from getting whooping cough in the weeks after birth.

“Whooping cough is a disease that can cause long bouts of coughing and choking, which can make it hard to breathe.

“The evidence shows that babies born to vaccinated mothers are 90% less likely to get the disease than babies whose mothers were unvaccinated.

“Whooping cough tends to circulate in greater numbers in Northern Ireland every three to four years. Currently we are seeing an increase, so it is a timely reminder of the importance of vaccination.”

Five babies have died in England after being diagnosed with whooping cough, the UK Health Security Agency said.

The PHA said similar to the situation with the MMR vaccine, which helps protect against measles, mumps and rubella, there has been a decrease in the percentage of children and pregnant women receiving the whooping cough vaccination.

They added: “All childhood vaccines provide the best protection for children against severe infections.”

For further information on whooping cough and vaccinations visit and

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