The Health Ministry published data showing a sharp increase in whooping cough cases in Israel on Monday. The ministry also emphasized the vaccination guidelines, and called on health maintenance organizations (HMO) to offer vaccinations against the virus to pregnant women and infants.
From the beginning of 2023 until July, 615 cases of whooping cough were recorded, compared to 18 over the same period last year. Some 182 cases were reported in July alone, compared to 120 in the prior month.
Three months ago, an outbreak of whooping cough in children claimed the life of a 10-week-old infant from Jerusalem.
The Health Ministry highlighted the importance of vaccines for specific groups in the population. "Pregnant women should be encouraged to vaccinate against whooping cough between weeks 27-36 of each pregnancy. The administration of the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy has been common for about a decade, both in Israel and worldwide,” according to the ministry.
“This vaccine is safe and protects the infant from life-threatening infections until they can be vaccinated themselves. In addition, vaccination of children against the disease should be encouraged at all ages, according to vaccination guidelines," the ministry added.
"Since September 2022, there has been an increase in whooping cough incidence worldwide," the ministry’s directive to HMOs in Israel read. "In recent months, outbreaks have been reported in Canada, Denmark, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Africa and Bolivia, each with hundreds of cases. Countries with lower incidence include the United States, Australia, and New Zealand." As for Israel, it was noted that "the whooping cough outbreak tends to rise and fall, with an increase in incidence every 4-5 years."
The ministry also added: "In recent months, we have seen such an increase in incidence rates and hospitalizations due to whooping cough. Most of the reported cases originate from the Jerusalem area, but cases have been reported throughout the country. Sickness is highest in areas with a dense population and low routine vaccination rates. The most significant morbidity and most hospitalizations occur among infants under six months old who aren’t fully vaccinated."
According to recently published data, the sharpest decline in children's vaccination coverage was recorded in areas close to Jerusalem. Data showed that while 98% of children born in 2017 were vaccinated with the quadrivalent vaccine, the figure in 2022 stood at 91.5%. There was a more pronounced decrease in the quinquivalent vaccine: in 2017, 92.7% of children were vaccinated, compared to only 78.7% in 2022.