British public health pleased with pertussis vaccine uptake figures among pregnant women

British public health officials recently said that the uptake of the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine among pregnant women in England has exceeded expectations.

The injection was first introduced throughout the United Kingdom in autumn. It was seen as an emergency measure to protect infants during what was the country's worst outbreak in the last two decades, according to the BBC.

In approximately a month since it was introduced, 44 percent of eligible women in England were administered the vaccine. Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not yet available.

"It really is an extraordinarily good result," Professor David Salisbury, the head of immunization programs in England, said, the BBC reports. "October's the first month we've got figures and to go straight in at 40 percent is fantastic."

Salisbury said that he hoped even more pregnant women would take the vaccine, even though uptake figures are already ahead of the flu vaccine. He said knowledge that whooping cough could be fatal in infants appears to have been a strong motivating force behind the vaccine's acceptance.

It is still too early to judge the overall success of the program, but pertussis infections dropped slightly in beginning in mid-September, when the program was initiated, and again more substantially in October.

There are generally surges in the number of pertussis cases in populations every three to four years, but throughout the world many countries are experiencing the worst outbreaks they have seen in decades. In the U.K. there have been nearly 10,000 cases of the illness this year and 13 infants have died.