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Whooping-Cough Vaccination

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will ask the joint committee on whooping-cough vaccination to include in its report the evidence supporting its new recommendation for an earlier commencing age for vaccination, and to relate it to the advice it gave in 1972;(2) if he will give the reasons for the change of policy on the desirable commencing age for immunisation; and if the joint committee has changed its mind on all of the three reasons favouring six months of age which it stated in its 1972 advice as being that before this age the antibody response may be reduced by the presence of maternal antibody, that the child's antibody forming mechanism is immature in the early months of life and that severe reactions to pertussis vaccine are less common in children over six months old than at three months of age.

My hon. Friend's suggestion will be conveyed to the joint committee.The committee no longer considers that severe reactions to whooping-cough vaccine are more common in children under the age of six months than over that age. It now considers that the balance of advantage lies in protecting the child from the age of three months, when the danger from whooping cough is greatest, even though the level of immunity achieved at that age may not be as high as in an older child. It also took into account the fact that nearly all European and North American countries recommend a start at three months.