The Health Ministry (MOH) is mulling giving the Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Acellular Pertussis) vaccine to pregnant women as an effort to prevent the spread of pertussis or whooping cough.

Its Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said the vaccine aims to protect babies from birth until they complete the six-dose primary series as stated in the National Immunisation Schedule.

“The majority of pertussis cases in the country are among babies under the age of five months who have not reached the optimal level of immunity because the three-dose primary pertussis vaccine has not yet been completed,” she said in a statement here today.

According to Dr Zaliha, as of April 28, 132 pertussis or whooping cough cases and two fatalities had been recorded in the country, a decrease of 73.3 per cent compared to the 495 cases reported on April 28, 2019.

She said that babies under the age of 12 months had the highest number of cases at 67 (50.8 per cent), followed by children between the ages of 1 and 10 with 47 cases (35.6 per cent), and the rest were those aged 11 and older.

Dr Zaliha said that vaccination is an effective pertussis preventative method, and that in Malaysia, babies are given the pertussis vaccine at the ages of two months, three months, five months, and 18 months.

“Pertussis outbreaks in the community can be prevented by ensuring that pertussis immunisation coverage is always above 95 per cent at all times,” she said.

Dr Zaliha said that out of 132 cases recorded this year, 89 cases, or 67.4 pe rcent involved citizens, while 43 cases, or 32.6 per cent were non-citizens.

She added that the number of pertussis cases in Malaysia dropped sharply in 2020 and 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the Movement Control Order came into effect.

She said that individuals with symptoms should cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing and immediately wash their hands to avoid spreading the disease to others.

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which is found in the mouth, nose, and throat of an infected person.

The bacteria spreads through respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing and can infect people of all ages.

The typical symptom of pertussis is a cough that lasts for one to two weeks and can last up to two months.

Usually, those who are infected will experience a prolonged cough for one to two weeks, which can last up to two months.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency