Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bordetella pertussis infections in England

Elise Tessier*, Helen Campbell, Sonia Ribeiro, Yuma Rai, Simon Burton, Partho Roy, Norman K. Fry, David Litt, Gayatri Amirthalingam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: In March 2020, England went into its first lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions eased temporarily, followed by second and third waves in October 2020 and January 2021. Recent data showed that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in reduced transmission of some invasive diseases. We assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pertussis incidence and on the immunisation programme in England. 

Methods: We assessed trends in pertussis cases from 2012 to 2020 by age group and month. Incidence from the time that England eased its initial lockdown measures in July 2020 through to summer 2021 was calculated and the incidence rate ratios of pertussis cases from five years prior to the pandemic (July 2014 – June 2019) compared to the same time period during the pandemic (July 2020 – June 2021). Vaccine coverage estimates for pertussis containing vaccines were reviewed for the maternal and childhood programmes. 

Results: A substantial decline in pertussis cases was observed from April 2020 onwards, marking the lowest number of cases in the last decade. Pertussis incidence dropped in all age groups, particularly among infants less than one year old (0.50 / 100,000 during July 2020 to June 2021 compared to 24.49/ 100,000 from July 2014 to June 2019). The incidence rate ratio was 0.02 (95% CI 0.01 to 0.02) for July 2014 to June 2019 (pre-pandemic) compared to the pandemic period of July 2020 to June 2021. None of the cases had a co-infection with SARS-CoV-2. Vaccine coverage for infants born between January to March 2020 with three doses of pertussis vaccine by 12 months of age decreased by 1.1% points compared to infants born between January to March 2019 (91.6% and 92.7%, respectively). Prenatal pertussis coverage for the 2020 to 2021 financial year was 2.7% points lower than the year prior to the pandemic (70.5% and 76.8%, respectively). 

Conclusions: Lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on pertussis transmission. With the easing of restrictions it is important to continue monitoring pertussis cases in England alongside coverage of the maternal and childhood immunisation programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number405
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: There was no external funding for this study. No financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2022.

Citation: Tessier, E., Campbell, H., Ribeiro, S. et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bordetella pertussis infections in England. BMC Public Health 22, 405 (2022).



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