A Dunedin Hospital paediatrician says parents and
grandparents around babies should be vaccinated against
Dr Pam Jackson said evidence supported so-called "cocooning"
- the practice of vaccinating adults to protect babies - as
babies were particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly
"While we have this epidemic around, it would be a very good
While it was a common public health strategy overseas,
"cocooning" was not funded in New Zealand, and not part of
the Ministry of Health's official strategy, she said.
Because it was not part of official advice, the vaccine was
not funded and people had to pay.
Dr Jackson said it was common for grandparents visiting
grandchildren in Australia to be advised to be vaccinated
Invercargill-based Michelle Rudgley, of the Immunisation
Awareness Society, was concerned by the push for more
"One day they are really going to have to accept that the
pertussis [whooping cough] vaccine is useless and no matter
how many boosters you have it is not going to stop the
occurrence of whooping cough and the best bet is for parents
to educate themselves on how to look after their children
should they develop it.
"The best way to do that is high doses of vitamin C. It is a
toxin-mediated illness, so vitamin C is the way to go and
lots of it," Ms Rudgley said.
Ministry of Health immunisation manager David Wansbrough said
there was insufficient evidence to justify public funding,
but the ministry recommended those in direct contact with
newborns be vaccinated.
"The cocoon strategy for whooping cough - vaccinating parents
and caregivers for newborns - is being used overseas but
there isn't enough evidence yet about whether it works to
justify public funding."
"The ministry recommends that household contacts of newborns
get immunised since immunity [from both the disease and the
vaccine] wears off over time."
The ministry funded five whooping cough vaccines for
children, including boosters at ages 4 and 11.
"The most important strategy is to get babies immunised on
time by 6 months because that is when they are most
In August, 119 whooping cough cases were notified to ESR,
compared with 74 at the corresponding time last year.