PREGNANT women in East Lancashire have been urged to get a vaccination that will protect their new-born babies against whooping cough.

The vaccine is for all mums-to-be between 28 and 38 weeks of their pregnancy.

It is designed to boost the short-term immunity passed on by mums to their babies while they are still in the womb.

Whooping cough can lead to pneumonia or permanent brain damage.

So far in 2014 across Cumbria and Lancashire there have been 17 confirmed cases and a further 22 reported.

There have also been two confirmed case of whooping cough in Blackburn with Darwen and two other reported cases.

In Blackburn with Darwen an average of 56 per cent of eligible women had the vaccine between January and March this year. Across Lancashire that figure was around 53 per cent.

Mums-to-be are advised to contact their GP or midwife for further information on how to get vaccinated.

Dr Gifford Kerr, consultant in public health for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “This is an important message for pregnant women. They need to take full advantage of these vaccinations to protect their new-borns.

"It is also important we continue to remind all parents to ensure their babies are vaccinated against whooping cough as part of the childhood vaccination programme to continue their protection.”

Lancashire Telegraph medical expert, Dr Tom Smith said: “It’s a good idea because pregnant women are themselves prone to bad experiences with whooping cough. Because their lungs are compressed by the baby, it can make them very short of breath and have to gasp for air.

“It can come in waves - you have really bad years then you won’t see a case of whooping cough for a while. If there are signs that outbreaks are starting up then vaccination is a good idea. It has a bad effect on very young children and small babies. ”