Children under one year of age have a 50% hospitalisation rate 0.5% mortality.
Infants less than 6 months are at greatest risk of severe disease and death.
If a child under 6 months of age gets whooping cough, they will usually need to be admitted to hospital.
Severe complications which occur almost exclusively in unvaccinated people, include pneumonia, hypoxic encephalopathy and death.
Some of complications of whooping cough in young babies:
• inflammation of the brain
• permanent brain damage
Between 2008 and 2012, all Australian states experienced their largest pertussis epidemic. The highest rates of disease were in infants less than 6 months and children 5-9 years of age.
In 2016, 20,091 cases of pertussis were reported nationally.
In 2016, children under 15 years of age accounted for 52% of the pertussis notifications.
Outbreaks occur every 3-4 years but with reduced morbidity and mortality in vaccinated individuals.
A 3-dose primary series of immunisation with DTPa vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age results in 84% protective efficacy against severe disease.
Immunity to pertussis wanes over time. Effectiveness of 3 doses of DTPa vaccine declined progressively from 2 years of age to less than 50% by 4 years of age.
A large trial in adolescents and adults demonstrated overall vaccine efficacy against confirmed pertussis of 92% within 2.5 years of vaccination.
Who should be vaccinated?
Infants and children
Free pertussis vaccine is available under the National Immunisation Program as follows:
[i] First dose can be given as early as 6 weeks of age
[ii] DTPa = Diphtheria tetanus and acellular pertussis-containing vaccines, which are used in children < 10 years of age. There are seven formulations: Infanrix (DTPa), Infanrix hexa (DTPa-hepB-IPV-Hib), Hexaxim (DTPa-hepB IPV-Hib), Infanrix IPV (DTPa-IPV), Quadracel (DTPa-IPV) and Tripacel (DTPa)
[iii] dTpa signifies formulations that contain substantially lesser amounts of diphtheria toxoid and pertussis antigens than child (DTPa-containing) formulations. dTpa vaccines are used in adolescents and adults. There are four formulations: Boostrix (dTpa), Boostrix-IPV (dTpa-IPV), Adacel (dTpa) and Adacel Polio (dTpa-IPV)
Older children and teenagers FREE catch up vaccines are now available for individuals 10 to 19 years of age.
Humanitarian entrants FREE catch up vaccines are now available through the NIP for refugees and other humanitarian entrants aged 20 years and over.
dTpa is recommended for any adult who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with pertussis, but particularly important for special risk groups. Vaccination for adults is not funded under NIP, apart from pregnant women (see below).
Special Risk Groups
Pregnant women (vaccine free under state and territory initiatives) and people in contact with infants (not funded under NIP for these individuals).
Click here to view or download the Pertussis GP Guide.
Page published: 8 March 2017
Page updated: 17 October 2017