The country's whooping cough epidemic is the worst in 15
years and better overall vaccination levels were vital to
stem the disease, a paediatric doctor says.
Three babies aged under six weeks have died from the highly
contagious disease in the past year.
The first whooping cough vaccinations are not given to babies
until they are 6 weeks old, then again at 3 months and 5
Starship Children's Hospital intensive care doctor John
Lillie said most children suffering from the illness were
younger than 3 months old.
"The ones who are the sickest and most likely to die are less
than 6 weeks of age - and these are the babies who are too
young to have the vaccination and they are not protected in
any way," he told Radio New Zealand.
Many New Zealanders were not protected against whooping cough
because vaccines were not introduced until the 1960s, Dr
But while the disease could be deadly for young children, it
appeared even one dose of vaccination helped to protect them,
"You're less likely to die if you have had some partial
immunisation, but you still can end up in intensive care with
only one dose of vaccine or two doses."
The Ministry of Health said in April that since the latest
outbreak began two years previously, 8800 cases of whooping
cough had been reported.