Immunise Australia Program
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Immunise Australia Program. Information Line 1800 671 811
Immunise Australia Program. Information Line 1800 671 811

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Information about pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation funded under the Immunise Australia Program.


Pertussis (whooping cough) is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The disease is highly infectious and most serious in babies under the age of 12 months. Babies are at greatest risk of infection until they can have at least two doses of the vaccine (minimum 4 months old) as the mother's antibodies do not provide reliable protection. It is spread through droplets in the air and it can develop from upper respiratory tract (nose, throat and windpipe) infections into pertussis pneumonia (lung infection).

It takes between 7 to 20 days for symptoms of this disease to show after infection. Symptoms include coughing and ";whooping";, which can continue for a few months.

Complications of the disease include hypoxic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain) leading to brain damage and possibly death.

Pertussis is a vaccine preventable disease. Pertussis vaccination is recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation. It is listed on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule and funded for children under the Immunise Australia Program.

Doses of vaccine are given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with booster doses at 4 years and 10-15 years. Immunisation against pertussis is achieved using combination vaccines. For information about immunisation in your area contact your State or Territory Health Department. For further information on routine childhood immunisation, refer to the Understanding Childhood Immunisation booklet. For technical information or information about the vaccine, refer to the pertussis section of the Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition 2013.

To receive a child pertussis immunisation, visit your local doctor or immunisation provider. It is important to note that the vaccine is provided at no cost, however a consultation fee may apply.

In addition, a single booster dose of adult formulation pertussis vaccine (dTpa) is recommended for all adults planning a pregnancy, for both parents as soon as possible after delivery of an infant, and for grandparents and other carers of young children. Alternatively, dTpa can be given to women during the third trimester of pregnancy.

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New South Wales Department of Health

Whooping cough vaccine is available for women in public maternity units for the opportunistic postpartum vaccination of new mothers, if they have not received a pertussis vaccine in the previous 5 years.

More information on the pertussis vaccination program in NSW.

Northern Territory Department of Health and Families

The pertussis vaccine is free to parents and close family members when administered within 7 months of the birth of a child.

More information on the pertussis vaccination program in NT.


Page last modified: 10 February, 2014