Fewer than half of heavily pregnant women have taken up the offer of a vaccination against a potentially fatal disease.

Just 221 eligible mums-to-be out of 518 across West Sussex have taken up the offer of a jab to protect their newborn babies against whooping cough.

The 42.7% figure is slightly lower than the national average of 43.6%.

Women in Brighton and Hove have been quicker, with 54% having the jabs.

The vaccination programme was launched by the Government in October in response to a whooping cough outbreak.

There have been almost 480 reported cases in Sussex so far this year, 15 times the number recorded for 2011.

Department of Health director of immunisation David Salisbury said: “I’d urge all pregnant women between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy to get the vaccine.

“Whooping cough is highly infectious.

“Thirteen infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been nearly 400 cases of the disease in children under three months old.”

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