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Whooping cough prevention

4-minute read

Whooping cough (also known as ‘pertussis’) prevented with a vaccine. Vaccination is recommended as part of routine childhood immunisation.

Immunisation against whooping cough is normally effective in preventing the disease. Sometimes it is still possible to catch whooping cough, but if someone has been immunised the cough is usually less severe. Immunity can wear off several years after vaccination. Routine immunisation against whooping cough is given to children at 2, 4 and 6 months, with booster doses at 18 months, 4 years and 11-13 years.

Immunity can wear off several years after vaccination. Routine immunisation against whooping cough is given to children at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months, and 4 years of age. Children will need a booster between the ages of 11 and 13. While immunised children can still catch whooping cough, the disease is then generally less severe.

To have your child immunised against whooping cough you can visit your local doctor or child health nurse.

Added protection for infants

It is now recommended that all pregnant women receive a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination at 20 to 32 weeks. A combination of antibodies being passed through the mother’s bloodstream and the reduced risk of the mother catching the disease makes this an ideal time to administer the vaccine. Pertussis vaccine is available free of charge to eligible people under the National Immunisation Program. Speak to your doctor or antenatal care provider to schedule an appointment.

Fathers, grandparents and anyone else who is likely to come into contact with newborns should see their doctor to get a pertussis booster at least 2 weeks before the baby is born.

Whooping cough vaccine

Vaccination is your best protection against whooping cough. This table explains how the vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.

What age is it recommended?

Children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 18 months, 4 years, and between 11 and 13 years.

Pregnant women at 20 to 32 weeks.

Healthcare workers, if they have not had a whooping cough vaccine in the past 10 years.

People working in early childhood education and care, if they haven’t had a whooping cough vaccine in the past 10 years.

Adult household contacts and carers of babies under 6 months old.

People who are travelling overseas, if they haven’t had a whooping cough vaccine in the past 10 years.

Adults of any age who need a tetanus, diphtheria or polio dose (you can get a combination vaccine that includes whooping cough to increase protection).

People aged 50 years, at the same time as they get their recommended tetanus and diphtheria vaccine.

People aged 65 or over, if they have not had a whooping cough vaccine in the past 10 years.

How many doses are required? 6 doses, then boosters every 10 years.
How is it administered? Injection
Is it free?

Free for children at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months, 4 years, and between 10 and 15 years.

Free for pregnant women.

Free for humanitarian entrants of any age.

For everyone else, there is a cost for this vaccine.

Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.

Common side effects The vaccine is very safe. Side effects may include redness, swelling or hardness where the needle went in.

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Last reviewed: April 2019

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