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Parents urged to get whooping cough booster vaccine

Published: 9:04PM Wednesday May 16, 2012 Source: ONE News

A public health expert says adults who are around infants need to consider getting a booster vaccination against whooping cough, which is at epidemic levels in New Zealand.

Dozens of infants have been admitted to hospitals nationwide with the infection this year.

Dr Nikki Turner from the Immunisation Advisory Centre told TV ONE's Close Up tonight a lot of people do not realise that they can catch whooping cough more than once, which can be passed on to young children.

She suggested what is known as a "cocoon strategy," where adults who are around infants get a booster vaccine to build on their whooping cough shots from childhood.

"The problem is that children who are younger than five, six months, are still at risk of whooping cough until they've got protection on board from their vaccinations," Turner said.

"We are suggesting there are other strategies that can support the other infants until they are fully vaccinated."

Turner said the most important strategy for parents of infants is to make sure they have their six week, three month and five month vaccinations.

She said vaccinations are easily accessible at any general practice in New Zealand and cost about $30.

Paediatrician Cameron Grant said babies hospitalised with whooping cough have a one in 10 chance of ending up in the paediatric intensive care unit.

"If they end up there, they have one chance in six of either dying or being left with brain damage or lung damage," said Dr Grant.

Grant says on average, an adult who gets whooping cough will pass it on to 15 other people.

"Now we are in an epidemic phase we need to give this more focused attention.

"I'd like to see fewer babies in hospital with this horrible illness. It's really awful."

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