MORE than half of pregnant women in St Helens had the whooping cough vaccine in December, latest figures show.

National figures show that 55 per cent of pregnant women had the jab – which can protect new born infants against the potentially deadly whooping cough virus.

But the average for St Helens was 67.1 per cent after 153 of the 228 pregnant mothers under the care of Halton and St Helens Primary Care Trust had the jab.

Last November the Star carried a plea from public health chiefs about vaccinations after four local children were confirmed with the illness.

The north west had seen cases soar from 73 in 2011 to 380 by November last year.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said: “Whooping cough is highly contagious and infants are particularly vulnerable.

“In England 14 infants died as a result of whooping cough 2012 and there were 429 cases of the disease in children under three months old.

“It's vital that babies are protected from the day they are born - that's why we are encouraging all pregnant women to be vaccinated.”