Denmark reinstates whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy

Denmark has reinstated an offer of free vaccination against whooping cough during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Denmark reinstates whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy
Illustration photo of a pregnant woman. Denmark is again offering vaccination against whooping cough during the third trimester. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

The Ministry of Health and the Interior has confirmed that whooping cough vaccination will again be offered during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Vaccination against whooping cough during pregnancy was initially offered in 2019 during an epidemic of the infection and has since been extended several times, most recently last spring.

The programme expired at the end of last year but has now been reinstated based on a medical recommendation by the Danish Health Authority.

The vaccination, which can be received as a single-dose injection at GP clinics, is intended to protect newborn infants during their early months, until they can receive the vaccination themselves.

Denmark’s child vaccination programme includes jabs against the disease, but it is not given until the child is a few months old, with doses at 3, 5 and 12 months.

Whooping cough (kighoste in Danish) is caused by a bacteria, Bordetella pertussis. The time between infection and the onset of symptoms is around 5 to 15 days.

Both children and adults can be infected with the disease, but it is most dangerous for infants, according to the Danish infectious disease control agency State Serum Institute (SSI).

Symptoms initially resemble a cold and light cough lasting around two weeks, before more severe and dry coughing fits begin. The dry coughing can last for as long as 10 weeks.

Small children can suffer up to 30-40 coughing fits per day as a result of the disease.

The infection can be dangerous for small children due to their narrower airways, in which hardened mucus can collect and cause breathing difficulties.

Long coughing fits can also result in the child not taking in sufficient oxygen.

The new free vaccination offer will be in place until March 31st but could be further extended.

Although Denmark doesn’t routinely offer a whooping cough vaccine to pregnant women, this is the case in other countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Austria.

A large number of cases were recorded in Denmark in 2019 and 2020, with 3,691 and 2,390 respectively.

“There has not been as many recorded cases for 35-40 years, and not since the vaccination programme was introduced,” department physician at SSI Peter Henrik Andersen told news wire Ritzau in March 2022.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a drastic fall-off in the number of cases of whooping cough, with only 80 recorded in 2021 according to earlier statements from SSI.

Denmark usually sees an epidemic of the infection every 3-5 years.

Neither vaccination nor prior infection provides lifelong immunity from the illness, with protection gradually declining after 5-10 years.

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How serious is Danish recall of antibiotic medicine?

The Danish Medicines Agency, Lægemiddelstyrelsen, recently recalled antibiotic medicine Dicillin.

How serious is Danish recall of antibiotic medicine?

The medicines authority said on Monday that persons using the antibiotic medicine Dicillin, produced by Sandoz, should return it to pharmacies to be replaced.

That came after multi-resistant bacteria known as CPO were detected in nine cases in patients who have taken the antibiotic.

The nine cases were detected over a four-month period.

READ ALSO: Danish medicines authority recalls antibiotic used by 35,000 people

The researcher who detected the issue with the antibiotic said in an interview with news wire Ritzau that he was very surprised when it first became apparent.

“We couldn’t believe it. What we had feared was actually the case,” senior physician and professor Ulrik Stenz Justesen of Odense University Hospital’s clinical microbiology department told Ritzau.

“I’ve been in this game for quite a few years now and I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” he said.

Around 35,000 people in Denmark were prescribed the antibiotic between September and December last year, according to the Danish Patient Data Authority (Sundhedsdatastyrelsen).

The actual number of people who are using the medicine could be larger than this because it may have been sold after that period, Ritzau writes.

Multi-resistant bacteria are resistant to treatment with several types of antibiotic.

CPO or carbapenemase-producing organisms are a group of bacteria that are resistant to several different types of antibiotics. They can be difficult to treat, according to information from the Danish Health Authority.

The risk of becoming seriously ill due to CPO is low for a healthy person, but people who are already ill or vulnerable can be at increased risk.

Infection with multiresistant bacteria can also mean all future hospital treatments for the affected person must be given in isolated rooms, so the bacteria are not passed on to other patients.

That could have serious consequences at Danish hospitals where capacity is already under strain, according to Justesen.

“That would increase the strain on a health system that is already severely strained,” he said.

Medicines of this type are produced under highly controlled conditions, which makes the discovery even more extraordinary, he explained.

“We don’t study medicines daily to see whether there are bacteria in them. But this is a bacteria that behaves so strangely that we immediately notice it,” he said.

Although the detection of the bacteria is concerning, the professor in microbiology said finding it was also reassuring in some way.

“We were also relieved that we could do something about it and get it stopped so we didn’t have to look around for many months for a source and know it was spreading in the community,” he said.

Manufacturer Sandoz has recalled all Dicillin packets and patients have been advised to return it to pharmacies to be replaced. Patients do not need to obtain a new prescription from their doctor.

“It’s important that you don’t stop your treatment if you are taking antibiotics. So patients to take 500mg Dicillin from Sandoz should go to their pharmacy to get a different, equivalent preparation,” the Danish Medicines Agency said in Monday’s statement.