Wednesday 8th March 2017

Whooping cough: Mum gets immunised

With three children and one on the way, getting the free whooping cough booster vaccination was a no-brainer for Tauranga mum Jamie-Lee MacInnes. 

"I've got two pre-schoolers to run around after, life's busy. The last thing I need is having a sick baby with whooping cough, when I can easily reduce the risk and protect my baby by being immunised."

The number of people with whooping cough increased across the Bay of Plenty last year (up 61 from 2015.  Ten were babies (who are most at risk of complication) and 11 were young children aged from one to four years old. And already this year small children have been admitted to hospital with the disease.

"In the first seven weeks of 2017 we've been notified of seven cases of whooping cough in the Bay of Plenty, two of these are babies. We're not off to a good start," says Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health, Dr Phil Shoemack. 

Whooping cough is a highly infectious and distressing illness caused by bacteria that are spread by coughing and sneezing in the same way as colds and influenza.  Symptoms start with a runny nose, fever and dry cough. Coughing gets worse over the next few weeks developing into attacks of coughing and sometimes vomiting. The 'whoop' sound occurs as a baby draws a breath after a long coughing attack.  Babies under one year are most at risk of serious complications from the illness such as pneumonia and brain damage.

"All my kids have been immunised, my daughter Aneeqah had her shots last week, now it's my turn," says Jamie Lee.

Pregnant women can get a whooping cough booster vaccination for free, between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.  This is the time when she can pass her immunity on to the baby, helping protect them until they are old enough to be vaccinated against whooping cough themselves as part of their free childhood immunisation at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old.

Jamie-Lee had her whooping cough booster vaccination through immunisations services provided by the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (PHO).

Diane Newland, Immunisation Coordinator says women should talk to their family GP practice about the Boostrix vaccine and when it is the right time to have this. "Staff there will also be able to talk about immunisations for your baby and the importance of getting these on time at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old."

"With children now back at school and preschool, it's a good time to check your family is up to date with all immunisations.  If a scheduled immunisation has been missed, or you are unsure whether a family member is immunised, contact your family doctor or practice nurse. It's never too late to catch up," says Dr Shoemack. 

Immunising against whooping cough during pregnancy protects about 90% of babies in their first few weeks of life.

Adults who are in contact with babies under 12 months of age should also consider getting the whooping cough booster vaccination for babies protection.


Whooping cough can be very serious for babies and children - especially those under 1 year old. If babies catch whooping cough, they:

  • May not be able to feed or breathe properly.
  • May become so ill they need to go to hospital.
  • Could end up with serious complications such as pneumonia and brain damage.

If you have questions, talk to your midwife, doctor or practice nurse or call the free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

Caption: Jamie-Lee receiving the whooping cough Boostrix vaccine from outreach Vaccinator Doug Gorinski.


James Fuller
Communications Advisor
Bay of Plenty District Health Board

Last updated: March 8, 2017