CHILD vaccination rates for whooping cough are below NHS targets in parts of East Lancashire — after the condition claimed the lives of three babies in the UK.

Now parents are being urged to ensure their youngsters are protected against whooping cough and measles, amid growing concerns about the spread of the conditions.

It has been revealed that three babies died in Wales from complications linked to whooping cough and a measles outbreak has affected the Swansea and Port Talbot.

Immunisation rates in Blackburn with Darwen are on target but the take-up figures for whooping cough and measles jabs across NHS East Lancs, covering Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Ribble Valley, are not.

Against a 95 per cent benchmark, 93.6 per cent were inoculated for whooping cough at one-year-old and just 89.8 per cent for the booster course aged five.

The MMR vaccine, for two-year-olds, is only taken up by 89.6 per cent of parents, and only 87.4 per cent for the second jab at five years.

Currently there is a nationwide campaign calling on pregnant women to be protected against whooping cough between the 28th and 38th week of their term. Dr Gayatri Amirthalingam, consultant epidemiologist for the Health Protection Agency, said: “The October figures show a continuing rise in the overall number of whooping cough cases.”

It is still too early to say whether the programme has had any effect.

But Dr Amirthalingam added: “We strongly recommend all pregnant women take up the offer of vaccination.”

Earlier this year there was a measles outbreak in Blackburn among a travellers’ community, which also traditionally has low take-up rates for vaccinations.

Whooping cough symptoms

  • Highly-contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways
  • Usually starts with a persistent dry and irritating cough
  • Can then progress to intense bouts of coughing marked out by the distinctive ‘whooping’ sound
  • Other symptoms can include a runny nose, raised temperature and vomiting after coughing
  • Coughing can last for up to three months

Measles symptoms

  • Highly infectious virus which can have serious consequences
  • Most common among one- to four-year-olds
  • Initially having cold-like symptoms, some may have a fever, aversion to bright lights, greyish white spots in the mouth and throat
  • The red-brown rash will appear after a few days, usually starting behind the ears