Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine
Whooping cough can be very serious – especially for babies under 12 months old. To protect pēpi (babies), a vaccination should be given from 16 weeks of every pregnancy. Then pēpi need 3 doses when they are 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old. Booster doses are also given at 4, 11, 45, and 65 years old.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacteria that causes breathing difficulties and severe coughing fits. The cough can go on for weeks or months which is why it’s sometimes called the ‘100 day cough’.
Having severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and other neurological (brain) issues. More than half of babies under 12 months old who catch it need to go to hospital, and up to 1 in 50 of these babies die.
It’s very contagious. It can easily spread between family members by coughing and sneezing. It can also spread quickly around early education centres and schools.
Whooping cough is not under control in New Zealand, and when outbreaks occur, it affects thousands of people.
During every pregnancy
Protecting your tamariki from whooping cough starts during pregnancy.
Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for babies – especially those who have not been vaccinated. More than half of babies under 12 months old who catch whooping cough need to go to hospital, and up to 1 in 50 of these babies die.
By getting immunised when you’re pregnant you’ll protect your pēpi until they can have their first immunisations when they’re 6 weeks old. This is because your immunity passes to your baby through the placenta.
It is most effective when given from 16-26 weeks of pregnancy, but is available and free from 13 weeks of every pregnancy.
6 weeks old
As babies get older, the immunity that crossed from the placenta gets weaker and so they need their own immunity from whooping cough as soon as possible.
When your pēpi turns 6 weeks old they should get the first of their 3 doses of the whooping cough vaccine.
3 months old
At 3 months old, a second dose of the whooping cough vaccine is due.
5 months old
At 5 months old, a third dose of the whooping cough vaccine is due.
4 years old
Protection against whooping cough weakens over time, so it’s important that tamariki have a booster when they turn 4 years old – before they start school.
From 11 years old
Another booster to help protect against whooping cough is recommended from 11 years old.
It’s available through some schools for students in Year 7 and is also free from your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider.
Certain adults are recommended to have a whooping cough booster at least every 10 years. This includes people who:
- work with young children and vulnerable people
- live with a newborn baby
- are at higher risk of severe illness from whooping cough (for example those with chronic respiratory disease).
Free tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix) are offered:
- from 13 weeks of every pregnancy (consider booking Boostrix between 16 and 26 weeks of pregnancy as this is when the vaccine is most effective)
- for some people aged 45 years old (if they have received fewer than four tetanus doses in their life-time)
- for everyone from 65 years old if it has been more than 10 years since a previous dose of tetanus and diptheria vaccine. If you have already had a free tetanus and diphtheria vaccine from age 65, you will not be eligible for a free Boostrix vaccine.
If you’re not eligible for a free whooping cough booster, they can be purchased. Your vaccinator can give you advice on how often it’s recommended you have a booster.
It will cost between $40 and $90 depending on where you book.
Whooping cough is seriously affecting pēpi in Aotearoa.
Whooping cough can make pēpi so sick that they need to go to hospital. Some pēpi die.
Very young pēpi with whooping cough can:
- stop breathing
- go blue
- not be able to feed and get exhausted
Older pēpi and tamariki get a runny nose, then a cough which gets worse and can last weeks or even months.
- have long coughing spasms
- gasp for air between the spasms
- get very red in the face
- vomit after the coughing spasms
Once pēpi and tamariki get whooping cough, there's no medicine that will make it better.
But, you can prevent whooping cough.
The only way to protect pēpi from whooping cough is by immunising.
Whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy is free and protects pēpi in their first weeks of life.
Start immunising pēpi the day they turn 6 weeks old to keep protecting them.
Whooping cough immunisation is free for pēpi from GP practices and Māori and Pacific immunisation providers.
Hapū māmā can also have free whooping cough immunisation at lots of pharmacies.
Which vaccine is used
Protection against whooping cough is given in vaccines that also protect against other diseases.
- Babies are given the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hep B, and hib vaccine.
- 4 year olds are given the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polio vaccine.
- Everyone aged 11 and over are given the tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix).
It’s not possible to separate these out – so you cannot have just a whooping cough vaccine.
Side effects and reactions
Side effects and reactions of each vaccine are listed on their pages.
- Babies: Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hep B, and hib vaccine
- Tamariki 4 years old: Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polio vaccine
- Adults: Tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix)
Booking a whooping cough vaccination
Whooping cough vaccines are free for pregnant people, all children under 18 years old, and adults from 45 and 65 years.
If you need to pay, it will cost between $40 and $90 depending on where you book.
You can search Healthpoint to see where Boostrix vaccines are given, and contact details are listed so you can find out how much they charge.
Ages 13 and over
Bookings for people over 13 years old can be made:
- online through Book My Vaccine, or
- over the phone by calling 0800 28 29 26 – 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Ages 12 and under
Bookings for children 12 years old and under need to be made with your usual doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider.
If you do not have a doctor, Healthpoint has a list and map of vaccination sites that anyone can access. This includes pharmacies and doctors that take casual (not enrolled patients).
If an immunisation has been missed – you can catch up
If any immunisations have been missed, it’s OK. You can catch up on most immunisations. For advice, talk to your doctor, nurse, or trusted healthcare professional.