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 15-17 years. Immunisation against pertussis is achieved using combination vaccines. For information about immunisation in your area contact your State or Territory Health Department. 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.
Australia is currently experiencing an epidemic of pertussis. In light of this, some states and territories are offering free booster vaccines against pertussis for parents and, in some jurisdictions, other close family members. South Australia and Tasmania are not currently running any such programs.
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Northern Territory Department of Health and FamiliesThe pertussis vaccine is free to parents and close family members when administered within 7 months of the birth of a child.
Queensland HealthFor a limited time, a free adult booster dose of whooping cough vaccine is available for: birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents of babies under 6 months of age, and other adults in a household with a baby under 6 months of age.
Mothers of newborn babies should see their doctor or immunisation provider to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the birth of the baby. Other eligible people can request their free vaccination prior to the birth of the baby.
Western Australia Department of HealthFree whooping cough vaccinations are currently available for all Western Australian parents of newborn babies. The vaccines are available from maternity hospitals and community health immunisation centres until 30 June 2011.
Page last modified: 06 May, 2013