Pertussis vaccine

Vaccine against whooping cough

The pertussis vaccine offers protection against the bacterial infection pertussis (whooping cough). Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Vaccines
  • Combined vaccines
  • Infanrix-hexa® 
  • Infanrix-IPV®
  • Boostrix®

What is pertussis vaccine?

Pertussis vaccine offers protection against the bacterial infection pertussis (whooping cough). It works by causing the body to produce antibodies against the bacteria responsible for the pertussis infection and in this way protects (or provides immunity) against the disease.

Immunity to pertussis develops within 10 to 14 days of receiving the vaccine. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine lessens with time and protection can be expected to last between 5 to 10 years in children. 

If pertussis vaccination is given after you have already become infected with pertussis, the vaccination will be ineffective in preventing whooping cough. Read more about whooping cough.

The pertussis vaccine also protects against other diseases such as tetanus and diphtheria. Read more about it's use for diphtheria and tetanus.

Who should be immunised against pertussis?

There are three main groups of people who should have the vaccine and for these groups it is free, as part of the New Zealand  immunisation schedule: 

  • babies: at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age
    (even if the mother has had the vaccine in pregnancy)
  • children: at 4 years and 11 years of age 
  • pregnant women: from 16 weeks’ gestation of every pregnancy, in their second or third trimester (see pregnancy and immunisation). 

If you have missed getting your vaccine, that’s okay. Talk to your healthcare provider about catch up doses. To be fully protected against whooping cough, it is really important to have the pertussis vaccine at the ages above. 

Note: Pertussis vaccine is recommended for other high-risk groups – check with your healthcare team if you should get the pertussis vaccine. 

Pertussis-containing vaccines

To reduce the number of shots needed, pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines into a single injection. There are 3 pertussis-containing vaccines funded in Aotearoa New Zealand called Infanrix-hexa, Infanrix-IPV and Boostrix. Each contains different ingredients and are therefore used for different groups of people. 

Pertussis-containing vaccines funded in Aotearoa New Zealand

Infanrix-hexa

Age: Given to babies at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age, as part of the primary immunisation. 
Protection: This brand of pertussis vaccine provides protection against pertussis and other infections including diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and disease caused by Haemophilis influenza type B. Babies are not well protected from whooping cough until they have had all 3 doses. Delaying immunisation puts your baby at higher risk of catching whooping cough. About 84% of babies are fully protected once they have completed the first 3 doses of the vaccine.

Infanrix-IPV

Age: Given to children at 4 years of age, as part of the primary immunisation.  
Protection: This brand of pertussis vaccine provides protection against pertussis  and other infections including diphtheria, tetanus, and poliomyelitis.

Boostrix

Age: Given to children at 11 years of age, as part of the primary immunisation and pregnant women, from 16 weeks’ gestation of every pregnancy,  in their second or third trimester (see pregnancy and immunisation).  
Protection: This brand of pertussis vaccine protects against pertussis  and other infections including diphtheria, and tetanus. 

Note: As Boostrix also contains protection against tetanus, it is recommended in adults aged 45 years (who have not had 4 previous tetanus doses) and those aged 65 years. Read more about tetanus vaccine.  

How are these vaccines given?

These vaccines are usually given intramuscularly (injected into the muscle) to the upper arm or thigh. However, if you are at high risk of bleeding, the vaccine may be given by deep subcutaneous injection (under the skin).  

What are the side effects of pertussis vaccine?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling and redness at the injection site
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • For injection site swelling or pain, place a cold, wet cloth, or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time.
  • Do not rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Read more:
    After your child is immunised (babies and children)
    After your immunisation (teenagers and adults)
  • Mild fever
Babies and children
  • If your child is hot, it can help to undress them down to a single layer, for example, a singlet and nappies or pants. Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if you are miserable or distressed.
  • Read more: After your child is immunised 
Teenagers and adults
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Read more: After your immunisation 
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itches, swelling of the face, lips, mouth or have problems breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product

Where can I get vaccinated?

The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.

If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Ring them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.

You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

Learn more

The following links have more information on pertussis-containing vaccines:

Medsafe Consumer Information

References

  1. Pertussis The Immunisation Advisory Centre
  2. Adacel The Immunisation Advisory Centre
  3. Boostrix The Immunisation Advisory Centre
  4. Infanrix-hexa The Immunisation Advisory Centre
  5. Infanrix-IPV The Immunisation Advisory Centre 
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Apr 2019