Special report: Mortality and morbidity of pertussis in children and young people in New Zealand

16 Dec 2015 | Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) can be very serious, even fatal. This report demonstrates that the impact of the illness is not distributed equitably among New Zealand children and young people. 

Report findings include:

  • There were just under 13,000 cases of confirmed, probable or suspected pertussis – an average of 992 cases per year.
  • There were 1515 hospital admissions for pertussis. Over three-quarters were for infants under 6 months of age who had either no or inadequate protection against pertussis.
  • Infants aged under 3 months had the highest notification rate (407.9 per 100,000) and the highest hospitalisation rate (468.2 per 100,000) for pertussis.
  • When examined by ethnicity, Māori and Pacific infants, children and young people were significantly more likely to be hospitalised with pertussis than non-Māori/non-Pacific infants.
  • Ethnic inequities were particularly marked for both Māori and Pacific infants aged under 3 months of age, who were an estimated 2.7 and 3.6 times more likely to be hospitalised for pertussis compared to non-Māori/non-Pacific infants.
  • Immunising pregnant women with the pertussis booster vaccine is safe and effective.
  • Infants are scheduled to receive three doses of a pertussis vaccination at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months. There is still room to increase immunisation coverage at 6 months and improve the timeliness of immunisation for Māori and Pacific infants and those living in the most deprived household areas. Data extracted from the National Immunisation Register during the most recent pertussis epidemic shows coverage of the three vaccination doses at 6 months was lower in these populations (Kiedrzynski et al 2015).

Read the media release about the report.

Last updated 04/08/2020