Cough up for a good cause

Australia has a generous immunisation schedule with many publicly-funded vaccines given to children, or adults of certain ages or with certain conditions. This is in the public interest, resulting in lives saved, and reduced rates of absenteeism and illness.

There are several vaccines that Australian adults can choose to have that incur a private cost. Whooping cough is a case in point. It comes combined with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, (and polio if required).

Whooping cough (or pertussis) is dangerous for infants, so currently women in their third trimester of pregnancy are offered the vaccine for free. It otherwise costs about $50. It is highly recommended for expectant fathers, grandparents and other household contacts of young babies.

The illness starts off like a cold, but the cough persists for weeks to months. It is not pleasant, and can be quite debilitating. Unimmunised people are at greater risk of severe complications including pneumonia and brain involvement.

The vaccine is not as potent as the older vaccine that was used. This means there are less side effects, but also less certain cover. It will reduce your chance of contracting whooping cough, reduce the severity of the illness and reduce its spread.

We tend to get outbreaks every few years of whooping cough; I diagnosed several cases two years ago. After seeing my poor late mum cough for more than six months when she contracted whooping cough at age 70, I was more than happy to cough up $50 for the shot.

The “Immunise Australia Program” section on the Department of Health’s website  provides useful information on vaccines.



Dr Marie Healy is a GP with interests in aged and chronic care and health promotion. This advice is general in nature; please see your GP for specific health advice regarding your individual circumstances.

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