Whooping Cough Immunisation
Whooping Cough Immunisation
Whooping cough can make pēpi (babies) very sick and some pēpi can die. Having whooping cough immunisation in pregnancy protects pēpi in their first weeks of life. Start immunising pēpi the day they turn 6 weeks old to keep protecting them.
Key points about whooping cough immunisation
- whooping cough can make pēpi very sick and some pēpi can die
- most severe illness happens in pēpi less than 6 months old, especially in pēpi too young for their first immunisation
- once pēpi have whooping cough, there is no cure but immunisation can prevent it
- having whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy protects pēpi in their first weeks of life
- start immunising pēpi the day they turn 6 weeks old to keep protecting them
- immunisation rates are low for all tamariki (children) in Aotearoa but they are very low for Māori and Pasifika tamariki
- there is a real risk of whooping cough spreading widely and affecting Māori and Pasifika pēpi and tamariki the most
- whānau (family) close to pēpi can also have whooping cough immunisation to protect pēpi too young for their first immunisation
How do pēpi catch whooping cough?
Pēpi get whooping cough from adults and children around them - often from their parents and whānau. Most severe illness happens in pēpi less than 6 months old, especially in pēpi too young for their first immunisation.
Watch a video of a parent talking about their experience of their baby catching whooping cough (KidsHealth video)
Mackenzie was just 7 weeks old when she became ill with whooping cough, early in 2012. She was admitted to hospital where she spent 10 days in isolation. Mackenzie's mum, Anna Gibson, says they are pretty sure Mackenzie's dad gave her whooping cough but it was too late by the time they realised he had it. Mackenzie has fully recovered now but Anna wants to tell her story so that other parents don't have to go through the same experience.
How can I protect pēpi from whooping cough?
Immunise during pregnancy
Having whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy protects pēpi in their first weeks of life. It is most effective when given from 16 to 26 weeks of pregnancy, but it's available and free from 13 weeks of every pregnancy.
Whooping cough immunisation also protects hapū māmā from catching whooping cough. It may reduce the chances of passing whooping cough to newborn pēpi.
Whooping cough immunisation is safe during pregnancy. Immunisation itself doesn't pass on to your baby, but your immunity to whooping cough does.
Hapū māmā (pregnant mother) can get whooping cough immunisation from GP practices or some pharmacies. Many pharmacies are open in the evening or weekends. Please talk to your midwife.
As well as having the whooping cough vaccine, remember to also have the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. You can have the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. You can have them at the same time or separately.
Start immunising pēpi the day they turn 6 weeks old
Immunisation (at 6 weeks, 3 and 5 months) is the best way to keep protecting pēpi against whooping cough.
Immunised pēpi are much less likely to catch whooping cough. If they do catch whooping cough, they are less likely to need to go to hospital, or to die.
You usually need to take pēpi to a GP practice for their immunisation. It's important for pēpi to have their immunisation the day they turn 6 weeks old. It's best to book an immunisation appointment a couple of weeks before that.
Some pēpi can have their immunisation from other services like Māori providers or outreach services.
Premature babies are even more at risk of severe whooping cough. It's important to immunise them on time starting 6 weeks after the day they were born (not the day they were due).
Immunise whānau close to pēpi
Whānau close to pēpi can also have whooping cough immunisation to protect pēpi too young for their first immunisation.
Parents, siblings, grandparents and whānau can easily pass whooping cough on to pēpi.
Encourage all whānau who will be in contact with pēpi to have whooping cough immunisation before your baby is born.
Immunity against whooping cough decreases over time. This is true whether you've had whooping cough or had whooping cough immunisation. Tamariki need booster doses at:
- 4 years
- 11 years
Does breastfeeding protect pēpi from whooping cough?
Unless women have had whooping cough immunisation during pregnancy, pēpi are born with no protection from whooping cough. While breastfeeding protects pēpi against many infections, it does not provide pēpi with protection against whooping cough.
Can I delay immunising pēpi against whooping cough?
Delay in any of the first 3 whooping cough immunisations for pēpi greatly increases the risk of them going to hospital with whooping cough.
See more KidsHealth content on immunisation
This page last reviewed 15 March 2023.
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