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Keep Christmas Whooping Cough-Free

Media Release
17 December 2012

Keep Christmas Whooping Cough-Free

The Ministry of Health is encouraging people to be extra vigilant as they gather for Christmas and New Year celebrations to protect young babies from whooping cough.

New Zealand is currently in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak with more than 6700 cases since August last year.

Babies under one year old are especially vulnerable to the disease and often catch it from older siblings, their parents or family members and friends.

“As people come together over the festive season we want them to consider getting immunised against whooping cough if they will be around babies under one year old,” says Ministry of Health Immunisation Champion and Chief Advisor Child and Youth Health Pat Tuohy.

“People with coughs should be especially careful if they are likely to come in to contact with babies. Most adults don’t realise they have whooping cough but it is incredibly contagious with every one person who has it passing it on to around 17 others.”

All babies and children are eligible for free immunisations against whooping cough at six weeks, three months and five months old. All children also receive free boosters at four and 11 years of age.

From 1 January 2013 pregnant women can also be immunised for free between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy to protect their baby. Partners and other close family members could also consider being immunised (this is not funded).

Any siblings should also be up-to-date with their immunisations. If people are unsure whether they or their children have been immunised, they can talk to their health practitioner, doctor or nurse.

“On time immunisation is vitally important,” says Dr Tuohy. “Babies need to have had all three immunisations at six weeks three and five months to be fully protected, so the longer these are delayed the more chance they have of catching the disease.

“One in three babies in New Zealand are at higher risk of ending up in hospital with whooping cough simply because they haven’t been immunised on time and more than half of the hospitalisations for whooping cough occurring in babies under one year old,” Dr Tuohy says.

For more information on whooping cough, including the videos and interviews with parents whose babies have caught whooping cough please visit

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