A sharp rise in the number of whooping cough (Pertussis) cases has prompted the New South Wales Government to extend a free vaccine program until at least the end of the year. The health authorities say it is extremely important for infants and older children to be vaccinated on time.
The vaccine is available free to new parents, grandparents and carers of children younger than 12 months of age. Since March 2009, 576,000 doses of the pertussis vaccine have been distributed.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner says at the current rate this year's whooping cough cases will exceed last year's. “Over 9000 notified in 2010 and we're already over 4000 in 2011 so far…This is a deadly disease that can cause death in young infants particularly, because they're so vulnerable,” she said. “The free vaccine is part of a wider community education campaign aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of whooping cough...(We aim to save) lives through increased vaccination rates in the community,” she added.
In the last big epidemic, during 2008 and 2009, there were more than 20,000 cases of whooping cough. NSW Health's director of health protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said infants were most at risk from the respiratory infection. “We are urging everyone who cares for newborns and other small children to have a whooping cough vaccine booster,” he said.