Denmark to give pregnant women free whooping cough vaccinations

Pregnant women will be offered free vaccinations against whooping cough, with an epidemic of the disease currently declared in Denmark.

Denmark to give pregnant women free whooping cough vaccinations
File photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Minister of Health Magnus Heunicke announced the temporary measure on Friday.

Specifically, women who are 32 weeks or more into their pregnancies will be entitled to the free vaccine when the offer comes into effect in November.

The free vaccination will be offered over an initial three-month period until the end of January, when the epidemic is expected to have passed.

Heunicke made the decision following advice from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen), DR reports.

“Whooping cough is an extremely contagious disease and it can be life-threatening for infants. We can see that there is currently a whopping cough epidemic in Denmark, and if you are vaccinated while pregnant that immunity will be passed on to the child you give birth to,” Heunicke told the broadcaster.

“That means the child will be protected against whooping cough during the first months of its life,” he added.

Medical and disease research institute Statens Serum Institut (SSI), which declared the epidemic last month, has said it could be the largest of its kind in the country in over a decade.

Over 3,400 cases are expect in total for 2019, of which 8 percent will be amongst children under a year old.

Both children and adults can be infected with the disease, but it is most dangerous for infants.

Denmark’s child vaccination programme already includes jabs against the disease, but Heunicke said it was currently important for babies to be resistant at birth.

“Fortunately there is very, very strong support for the whooping cough vaccine with regard to newborns and small children. And I hope that support will be just as strong amongst pregnant women,” he said to DR, adding:

“This is quite simply about saving lives, because whooping cough is extremely contagious and can be life-threatening.”

On its website, SSI describes typical whooping cough symptoms as “stroing coughing fits followed by wheezy breathing and possible vomiting”.

READ ALSO: Whooping cough epidemic declared in Denmark

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New Year’s Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark

The number of people treated for fireworks-related injuries on New Year's Eve in Denmark has bounced back to normal levels, with 16 people treated for eye injuries after the celebrations.

New Year's Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark
Fireworks led to 16 eye injuries on New Year's Eve. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

This is up from the unusually low 12 people who were treated for eye injuries during and after the celebrations last year. Two of this year’s injuries are sufficiently severe that the injured are expected to lose their sight completely or partially.

“After a very quiet evening last year, it is back to a normal, average level,” Ulrik Correll Christensen, head doctor at the ophthalmology department at Rigshospitalet, told the country’s Ritzau newswire. “It is a completely extraordinary situation at the eye departments on New Year’s Eve. It is not at all something we see on a daily basis.” 

Christensen has tallied up reports from all of Denmark’s eye units, including the major ones in Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Næstved. 

He said that 15 out of the 16 cases had not worn safety goggles, two thirds were between ten and thirty years old. 

“The most important thing is to follow the advice when firing fireworks. Wear safety goggles and keep a good distance,” he said. 

The number of ambulance call outs on New Year’s Eve is also back to normal, with 1,188 emergency vehicles sent out, compared to 875 last year. 

In the Capital Region of Copenhagen, there were 44 call-outs were related to fireworks, of which 16 were for hand injuries and 14 for eye injuries.