MOH reiterates call for healthcare workers to be vaccinated against whooping cough

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

SINGAPORE — With the number of whooping cough cases on the rise, the authorities have renewed their call for healthcare workers looking after young children to be vaccinated against the disease, which is potentially deadly for babies less than a year old.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) first made the recommendation in 2014. That year, there were 21 confirmed cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

Since then, figures have shot up to 57 in 2015 and 85 in 2016. Last year, there were 79 reported cases, although doctors told TODAY the figures may be the tip of the iceberg owing to the relatively high cost of a swab test to confirm whooping cough.

The highly contagious respiratory disease is caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium. According to the United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, it causes violent coughing fits, after which a person often takes deep breaths that result in a “whooping” sound.

Whooping cough is transmitted via respiratory droplets or direct contact with the nasal or throat secretions of an infected person, the MOH said.

“All healthcare workers who come into contact with newborns and infants are recommended to receive one dose of pertussis vaccination … if they have not been previously vaccinated. Our healthcare institutions monitor vaccination coverage of healthcare workers, to ensure optimal protection against pertussis,” an MOH spokesperson said in response to TODAY’s queries.

The MOH did not share how many healthcare workers have been recommended the vaccine or the proportion of them already vaccinated.