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Whooping cough, where are we now?


Aims: This paper describes the recent trends of pertussis and vaccine uptake in New Zealand based on notifications and immunisation registration information since 2011. It highlights the current risk for the infant in the first months after birth and the crucial role a pertussis booster in pregnancy could play. It also aims to show that protection of infants by the acellular pertussis vaccine can be improved by timely immunisation even in a situation of improving overall uptake rates that are nearing the national target of 95%. Methods: We analysed New Zealand notification data for pertussis, extracted from EpiSurv between August 2011 and December 2013, which included the period of the last epidemic. Pertussis immunisation coverage data were extracted from the National Immunisation Register (NIR). Population estimates were based on 2006 census data. Deprivation was analysed using the New Zealand Deprivation Index 2006. Results: Despite immunisation coverage at 12 months having exceeded 90% New Zealand experienced a large epidemic from 2011 to 2014, with several hundred infant hospitalisations and three deaths. Notification data indicated an average annual rate of pertussis in the New Zealand population of 102 per 100,000 with the highest rates in the youngest age groups. While an overall increase in immunisation coverage in New Zealand was evident and the timeliness showed improvement across ethnic groups and deprivation deciles, there was a marked geographical variation within DHBs and between ethnic groups. Conclusions: Given the recent published evidence, pertussis vaccination should be offered to all mothers between weeks 28 and 38 of pregnancy. Further improvements are still possible in coverage at 6 months, particularly in Māori and but also in Pacific populations, as well as in more deprived populations. DHBs work towards achieving the 95% target can contribute to the improvement in the timeliness of immunisation.

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