FREE whooping cough vaccines will offered at least until the end of this year after NSW Health extended the provision of the free vaccine in an effort to protect newborns from the potentially life-threatening condition.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner made the announcement this morning citing the high incidence rate of the disease in NSW as the reason. Two babies have died on the Far North Coast of the infection since 2009.
“The vaccine, free since early 2009, is available for new parents, grandparents and carers of children less than 12 months of age,” Mrs Skinner said.
“The free vaccine is part of a wider community education campaign aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of whooping cough, with the aim of saving lives through increased vaccination rates in the community.”
The Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant said it was extremely important that infants and older children were vaccinated on time.
“Infants can receive their first vaccination as early as six weeks of age to provide some protection as early as possible,” Dr Chant said.
“Infants may not develop sufficient pertussis protection until the three-dose course of whooping cough vaccine is completed after six months of age.
“Parents should ask people with a coughing illness, who could have whooping cough, to stay away from their baby.”
Over 20,000 cases of whooping cough were notified for 2008 and 2009 – when the last big epidemic occurred in NSW. Over 9,000 cases were notified in 2010 and over 4,000 in 2011 so far, indicating continued high rates of whooping cough in the community.
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