Whooping Cough Vaccination


What is whooping cough?

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a highly contagious bacterial disease which can be very serious, especially for young children and older adults.1,2

Whooping cough is spread through the air by infectious droplets, so it’s easily transmitted by other people coughing or sneezing or by being close to a person with the disease.3,4

It’s more infectious than other common diseases including the flu. One infected person can pass whooping cough on to up to 17 unprotected others.5

Symptoms in adults include runny nose, sneezing, slight fever, repeated coughing fits, and difficulty breathing.6

In healthy adults whooping cough is often difficult to diagnose – you may think you just have a persistent cough (often referred to as a 100-day cough).2,7

It can however become more than just annoying, causing complications such as:3,8

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Pneumonia
  • Rib fractures.

Who’s at risk?
Older patients have weakened immune systems.9 This is known as, age-related decline in immunity and is one of the reasons why infectious diseases like whooping cough are more severe in older adults.10

Other reasons why infectious diseases like whooping cough are more severe in older adults include:11

  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Weakened immune system
  • Multiple medication use
  • Diminished response to therapy
  • Living in close proximity to others (including care facilities)

The burden of whooping cough and the risk of complications increases with age in adults. In fact, if you’re 65 or over you are 4 – 6 times at greater risk of being hospitalised.12,13

Babies under 2-months of age are also at a high-risk of serious complications.14 Newborn babies have no natural protection against whooping cough at birth or in the first few months of life, leaving them unprotected and highly vulnerable.14,15

Staying protected
Because your immunity wanes over time, adults need regular vaccinations to remain protected.9,16 So, even if you’ve been vaccinated before you may be due for a booster. We need a booster every 10 years to stay fully immunised, but most adults are not aware of this.2,16,17

If you’re 45 or over*, you may be eligible for a free whooping cough vaccination.1 Now available at your local pharmacy – talk to your healthcare professional today!


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Consumer Infomation

*One dose of Boostrix is funded for those 65 years and over, and for those 45 years and over who have not had 4 previous tetanus doses.


  1. Ministry of Health. Immunisation Handbook 2020. September 2020. Wellington. Ministry of Health. Available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/immunisation-handbook-2020. Accessed on 2 June 2020.
  2. Kandeil W et al. Expert Review of Vaccines.2019;18:439-455.
  3. Pertussis. Questions and Answers. Available at: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4212.pdf. Accessed on 2 June 2021.
  4. Pertussis. Causes and Transmission. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/causes-transmission.html. Accessed on 2 June 2021.
  5. Fine PE, et al. Epidemiologic reviews1993;15:265-302.
  6. The Immunisation Advisory Centre. Pertussis. Available at: https://www.immune.org.nz/diseases/pertussis. Accessed on 2 June 2021.
  7. Marchant, C. Clinical Infectious Diseases.2004;39:1581–1582
  8. Mattoo S, and Cherry JD. Clinical Microbiology Reviews.2005;18:326-382.
  9. Simon AK, et al. Proceedings Biological Sciences.2015;282:1-9
  10. Philip R.K., et al. Expert Review of Vaccines.2018;17:851-864.
  11. Steens A, et al. BMC Infectious Diseases.2014;14:1471-2334.
  12. Liu BC, et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases.2012;55:1450-1456
  13. Karki S, et al. Vaccine.2015;33:5647–5653
  14. ACOG Committee Opinion. Number 718, September 2017. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Immunization-Infectious-Disease-and-Public-Health-Preparedness-Expert-Work-Group/Maternal-Immunization. Accessed 18 June 2021.
  15. Wendelboe AM, et al. Pediatric Diseases. 2007;26:293-299.
  16. GlaxoSmithKline New Zealand. Boostrix Data Sheet. GSK NZ; 2020. Available at: https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/Profs/Datasheet/b/Boostrixinj.pdf. Accessed 2 June 2021.
  17. GSK Data on File. IQVIA Whooping Cough Consumer Survey. September 2018.

Boostrix (combined diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis (dTpa or Tdap) vaccine) is available as an injection. Boostrix is indicated for booster immunisation of people aged 4 years and older against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). A 0.5 mL dose contains not less than 2.5 LfU of diphtheria toxoid, not less than 5 LfU of tetanus toxoid, and three purified antigens of Bordetella pertussis (8mcg of pertussis toxoid, 8 mcg of filamentous haemagglutinin, and 2.5 mcg of 69 kDa outer membrane protein). Boostrix is government funded for 11-year olds as part of the national immunisation schedule, for pregnant women between 16 and 38 weeks gestation (Category B1) and for primary caregivers of infants admitted to Intensive Care Units for more than 3 days. It is also funded for people from 65 years old, and people from 45 years old who have not had 4 previous doses of tetanus vaccine, for vaccination of previously unimmunised or partially immunised patients, for revaccination following immunosuppression and for boosting of patients with tetanus-prone wounds. It is also available as a private-purchase prescription medicine – you will need to pay for this medicine, normal doctor’s office visit fees apply. A trained pharmacist can also administer Boostrix to a person aged 18 years and older. Tell your healthcare professional if you are pregnant or breastfeeding to be informed of the benefits and risks of Boostrix. Boostrix has risks and benefits. Use strictly as directed. Boostrix should not be administered if you or your child are hypersensitive to any component of this vaccine or similar vaccines or have had swelling or disease of the brain after previous pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination, or any problems with blood clotting or the nervous system (such as spasms, epilepsy and brain disease) after earlier immunisation against diphtheria or tetanus. Common side effects include fever, irritability, fatigue, malaise, headache, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea, and local reactions such as pain, redness, bruising, itching, or swelling at the injection site. If you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. Additional Consumer Medicine Information for Boostrix is available at www.medsafe.govt.nz. Ask your doctor if Boostrix is right for you or your child. Trade marks are owned by or licensed to the GSK group of companies. Marketed by GlaxoSmithKline NZ Limited, Auckland. Adverse events involving GlaxoSmithKline products should be reported to GSK Medical Information on 0800 808 500. TAPS NP18486-PM-NZ-BOO-WCNT-210003. Date of Approval: 10 2022. Date of Expiry: 10 2024.

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