With increases in vaccine-preventable diseases having been reported in the first quarter of 2024 compared to previous years, Public Health Scotland (PHS) is ensuring people are aware of the importance of vaccination.

Today’s ‘Immunisation and vaccine-preventable diseases quarterly report’ shows there have been increases in cases of whooping cough (pertussis), measles and meningococcal disease between January and March of this year.

An increase in whooping cough cases is being seen across the UK and Europe. In Scotland, most of the cases are in the ten to 14 years age group.   

Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the lungs and airways, with unimmunised infants more likely to develop complications which can require hospital treatment. It can be prevented with immunisation which is given to infants, younger children and pregnant women.

With whooping cough expected to continue to circulate at high levels until the autumn, PHS is encouraging pregnant women to ensure they are immunised between weeks 16 and 32 of their pregnancy. The vaccine is required in each pregnancy and offers vital protection to babies after birth until they are old enough to have their first routine immunisation at around 8 weeks old. Parents are encouraged to ensure their children are immunised against whooping cough, as it is a highly contagious bacterial infection.

The report also shows that there were six confirmed cases of measles in Scotland during the first quarter of 2024. The lack of onward transmission associated with these cases highlights the impact and importance of maintaining high vaccine uptake in Scotland.

Measles can be a very serious condition, causing pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and can affect people of any age if they have not been vaccinated. 

The MMR vaccine protects against measles with the first dose offered to children between 12-13 months, and the second dose offered at 3 years 4 months. If it’s missed at these times, it can be given at any age.  

Anyone who hasn’t had two doses of the MMR vaccine is encouraged to visit the NHS Inform website to find out how to arrange an appointment in their local health board area.   

As is often the case in winter, the report also shows that we saw a small increase in invasive meningococcal disease, including meningitis, in the first quarter of 2024.

Vaccines offer the best protection against certain causes of meningitis. Anyone who is under 25 years of age and has not yet had the free meningitis ACWY vaccine is encouraged to take up the offer. This is particularly important for those planning to go to college or university after the summer.

Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, Head of Vaccination and Immunisation at PHS said:

“Being vaccinated is the best thing you can do to help protect against serious vaccine preventable diseases. Some of the diseases that these vaccines protect against have almost disappeared from the UK as a result of so many people being vaccinated against them over the years. We need to maintain high vaccination uptake rates to reduce the risk of infections occurring. For more information on the vaccines which are provided free in Scotland by the NHS, please visit NHS Inform.”

Further information

Find out more about whooping cough on NHS Inform:  

Pregnant women are encouraged to speak to their midwife about getting the whooping cough vaccine; and you can find more about pregnancy and baby immunisations on NHS Inform: www.nhsinform.scot/pregnancyandbabyvaccines

Parents are encouraged to contact their local NHS Immunisation team to arrange for their children to get vaccinated if they have missed any doses. Contact details can be found at www.nhsinform.scot/gettingvaccinations or by calling 0800 22 44 88.

If you have any concerns about symptoms of whooping cough, speak to your GP practice or phone 111.

The latest data on Whooping cough case figures is available here.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, causes long bouts of coughing. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • cold symptoms, such as runny nose, red and watery eyes, sore throat and slightly raised temperature
  • intense coughing bouts starting about a week later
  • coughing up thick mucus, which may be followed by vomiting
  • gasping for breath between coughs, which may cause a ‘whoop’ sound – although not everyone has this.

Further information on measles and how to check you / your child is fully protected can be found on www.nhsinform.scot/MMRagainstMeasles

Please be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis which can be found at www.nhsinform.scot/meningitis

Call NHS24 free on 111 to seek urgent medical help if you become concerned.

To find out how out more about vaccines for students, please visit www.nhsinform.scot/vaccinesforstudents

The latest immunisation and vaccine-preventable diseases quarterly report (Jan – March) is available here. 

Last updated: 04 June 2024