THE proportion of babies in BCP vaccinated against whooping cough has failed to meet its key health target, data shows.

It comes as cases of the respiratory disease have exploded this year, with the UK Health and Security Authority (UKHSA) confirming the number of reported cases in 2024 is more than three times that last year.

Health experts have warned more babies will die if vaccination rates across the country do not rise.

Rachel Partridge, deputy director of Public Health for Dorset and BCP Councils, said: "The rise in whooping cough (pertussis) cases is yet another reminder of how quickly childhood diseases spread, and it's a concern because whooping cough can cause serious complications in young children."

UKHSA figures show 92.5 per cent of babies in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole had received their six-in-one vaccine by their first birthday. This vaccine provides immunisation against a range of diseases, including whooping cough.

This was down from 93.7 per cent the year before. This means BCP did not reach the 95 per cent vaccination target set by the UKHSA.

Rachel added: "Vaccination for families and children is vitally important. It is one of the safest and most effective ways that we can provide protection for our children against infectious diseases.

"If your child isn't vaccinated, they are not protected. In recent years, we've seen a lower uptake in routine vaccinations, which has worsened due to the pandemic.

"We have a highly effective whopping cough vaccine, which is available during pregnancy and as part of the routine NHS vaccinations for babies from 8 weeks old.

"If you are pregnant, you can talk to your midwife for advice, or if you have young children and you're unsure if they are vaccinated, please speak to your general practice."

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, consultant paediatrician and chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme under-vaccination puts 'the most vulnerable—those who are too young to have been vaccinated—at greatest risk'.

He said the 'only thing we can actually do' about rising cases is to ensure higher vaccination rates.

He warned: "The troubling thing is that if we continue to have high rates of spread and low rates of vaccination, there will be more babies severely affected, and sadly, there will be more deaths."