The Slovenia Times

Whooping cough on the rise as vaccination rate drops

Health & MedicineSociety
A sick child with fever. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Whooping cough is on the rise in Slovenia, with the number of cases this year having already surpassed 60% of the total number of cases in the entire 2023. The increase is coupled with a declining vaccination rate.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) has received reports of 76 cases of the disease by 1 February, which compares to 120 cases in the whole of last year.

Three children, including two infants, were hospitalised in the past month at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, which said that the infants had not been vaccinated against whooping cough, and the child had only received the primary shot.

Despite vaccination of children against whooping cough being mandatory in Slovenia, this disease still occurs, also in the form of outbreaks, with the incidence being the highest among infants and young people, NIJZ data shows.

Since mandatory vaccination was introduced in 1959, pre-school children have been receiving three doses in the first two years, one dose when they are seven years old, and two doses during the systematic health checks in secondary school.

"It is extremely important that children receive all scheduled shots," the NIJZ said, noting that infants up to the age of six months are particularly at risk.

The public health authorities also recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against whooping cough as soon as possible after the 24th week of pregnancy. More than 1,000 pregnant women were vaccinated against the disease in Slovenia last year.

The number of cases in Slovenia has been increasing since 2021, the year when it declined markedly partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related preventive measures, which also limited the circulation of other pathogens.

Nevertheless, the vaccination rate for pre-school and school children declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, including due to the changed "attitude of certain individuals towards vaccination" in general.

The rate of vaccination of pre-school children with the third dose of diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Haemophilus influenzae and hepatitis B vaccine was at 93.4%-95.3% in 2013-2020, to fall to 86.4% in 2011 and to recover to 89.2% in 2022.


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