Whooping cough-what can we do?

Whooping cough (Pertussis) is on the increase - what can we do?

In the last month there has been a significant increase in the number of pertussis notifications to the Ministry of Health Public Health Surveillance Team compared with the same four weeks in 2016. [1]

Babies are the most vulnerable and usually catch it from older siblings, parents or other family members. Babies are often unable to feed or breathe properly so become very ill and may end up with a prolonged stay in hospital.

Pertussis is sometimes asymptomatic, so timely immunisations are a crucial way for parents/whānau and pregnant women to protect their babies and children against whooping cough. When pregnant women are vaccinated, they pass their immunity on to their baby, protecting them until they are able to be immunised at 6 weeks. Pertussis vaccination is safe for use in pregnancy. [2]

If pregnant women are visiting your pharmacy (for example to purchase folic acid) or you are reviewing their treatment in a practice environment, please take the opportunity to highlight that pertussis immunisation is recommended and free through their GP between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.

Patients visiting the pharmacy or seeking advice for a persistent cough are another group that could be targeted to raise awareness about whooping cough immunisation.

Health Ed have produced some free leaflets which can be ordered from their website or clicking on the photo below:

Authorised Pharmacist Vaccinators

For authorised Pharmacist Vaccinators, this may also be an opportunity to discuss more generally the vaccination options that can be given in your Pharmacy, which could contribute to improving public health outcomes.

If you are an authorised Pharmacist Vaccinator in the Waikato and a member of the Midland Community Pharmacy Group, you can administer free pertussis vaccinations to pregnant women. As part of the multidisciplinary team, you may also wish to inform your local midwifes that you are providing this service. Additional information can be found here.

[1] Personal communication; Immunisation Team, System Outcomes, Service Commissioning, Ministry of Health, [30/11/17].

[2] Immunisation for pregnant women. Ministry of Health, [cited 5/12/17]. Available from here