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Whooping cough cases have increased in Finland – vaccination during pregnancy can also protect the unborn child


The number of whooping cough cases has doubled in Finland over the past year.  The National Institute for Health and Welfare’s register of infectious diseases (in Finnish) shows that there were 386 confirmed cases by December 2016, compared to only 165 the previous year. 

Whooping cough is a bacterial form of bronchitis that starts with symptoms that are similar to those of the common cold. This is followed by increasingly frequent severe coughing fits, during which it is difficult for the patient to breathe. Whooping cough can be life-threatening for infants. In Finland, the most recent fatal case of whooping cough in an infant occurred in 2014.

A vaccination study of expectant mothers has been launched in Finland to determine the impacts on the baby of the mother receiving the whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy. Vaccinating the mother against whooping cough in the late stages of pregnancy may also protect the newborn. Vaccinating expectant mothers against whooping cough is already a common practice in many countries. In the UK, for example, expectant mothers have received the whooping cough vaccine under the national immunisation schedule since 2012. Under the Finnish National Immunisation Programme, infants receive the whooping cough vaccine at three months of age.

The study is conducted by the Vaccine Research Centre at the University of Tampere. Participation is possible at the research clinics in Tampere, Turku, Pori, Seinäjoki, Kokkola and Oulu.