Pertussis vaccine

Vaccine against whooping cough

The pertussis vaccine offers protection against the bacterial infection pertussis (whooping cough). Pertussis vaccine is also called Infanrix-hexa® , Infanrix-IPV® and Boostrix®.

What is pertussis vaccine?

Pertussis vaccine offers protection against the bacterial infection pertussis (whooping cough). Whooping cough is an infectious disease that causes coughing and difficulty breathing. It can be very serious in young babies who can catch whooping cough from family/whānau members. Read more about whooping cough.

The pertussis vaccine works by causing your body to produce antibodies against the bacteria responsible for the pertussis infection and in this way protects against the disease.

To protect babies in your family, make sure you, your older children and extended family are up-to-date with vaccinations. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand the pertussis vaccines used are Infanrix- hexa, Infanrix-IPV and Boostrix.

Who should be immunised against pertussis?

Children and young people

In Aotearoa New Zealand vaccination is free for children and young people aged under 18 years. Babies and young children should get their vaccine doses on-time at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months. Booster doses are then available at 4 and 11 years old. Read more about the Aotearoa New Zealand childhood immunisation schedule

If your child has missed getting their vaccine, that’s okay. Talk to your healthcare provider about catch up doses for people under 18 years. 

Pregnant people

Immunising people who are pregnant protects babies in their first 6 weeks of life until they can receive their own immunisation.

  • The vaccine is free during pregnancy and it's recommended to have it in the second trimester, but it can be given from 16 weeks of pregnancy until 2 weeks before birth.
  • You should get a booster pertussis vaccine at each pregnancy because protection against pertussis decreases over time, even if your pregnancies are only a year or two apart.
  • Read more about vaccinations and pregnancy. 


All adults at 45 and 65 years of age can get the vaccine for free. It's in the same vaccine as the tetanus booster. Parents or caregivers with babies in special care baby units may also be eligible for a free vaccine.

Some groups at higher risk of becoming very unwell if they catch whooping cough (eg, people with chronic respiratory conditions, congenital heart disease or with a weakened immune system) should also get the vaccine.

Pertussis-containing vaccines

To reduce the number of shots needed, the pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines into a single injection. There are 3 funded pertussis-containing vaccines,  each one has different ingredients and is used for different groups of people. 

  • Infanrix-hexa: Given to babies at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age,
  • Infanrix-IPV: Given to children as a booster at 4 years of age
  • Boostrix: Given to children as a booster at 11 years of age and to adults, including pregnant people. Boostrix is also used for catch-up doses for 10-18 year-olds if any doses have been missed. 

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. 

The pertussis vaccine is combined with other vaccines so it also protects against other diseases such as tetanus and diphtheria. Read more about its use for diphtheria and tetanus.

How are these vaccines given?

These vaccines are usually given intramuscularly (injected into the muscle) to the upper arm for adults and older children or thigh for younger children. 

Where can I get vaccinated?

Your family doctor: or 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.

Pharmacies: Pregnant people can get their Boostrix vaccine free from pharmacies offering the service. Those over 18 years of age who meet eligibility criteria are also funded for their Boostrix vaccines from a pharmacy. Boostrix can also be purchased through the pharmacy, if you are not eligible and are over 18 years of age. The Healthpoint website lists pharmacies that offer Boostrix.

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.
  • Don't rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if these bother you.
  • 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 they 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 medicine side effect to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.

Learn more

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

Medsafe Consumer Information


  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: 17 Mar 2023