Grieving parents warn of whooping cough risk

Alaya-Reign Ma'anaima-Pamata died from whooping cough.
Alaya-Reign Ma'anaima-Pamata died from whooping cough.
The parents of a 6-week-old girl who died of whooping cough say they wish they had known the threat to their baby before they took her home from hospital.

Photos of Alaya-Reign Ma'anaima-Pamata are among the few items her young parents have left to remember their baby girl.

Jade Pamata, 24, and Simi Ma'anaima, 25, had their daughter home from hospital two weeks before she fell ill.

At first it was a "mild" cough but soon Ms Pamata was rushing their daughter to the emergency department.

Alaya's last nine days were spent in Christchurch Hospital before she died from whooping cough on November 10.

Last night (Thur) the grieving parents said they had not known how susceptible young children were to the deadly disease.

"When we got to bring her home she looked healthy to us and we didn't really guard her in that sense," Ms Pamata said.

"We didn't realise how common [whooping cough] was or how serious it was.

"That's probably my biggest regret, not keeping her away from people for a couple of months."

This week the Government announced free whooping cough vaccines would be available to all pregnant women from January 1 as the outbreak of the disease spreads across the country.

There have been 6700 notified cases of whooping cough since August last year, of which more than 200 were babies aged one-year-old or younger who required hospital treatment.

Alaya is reported to be the second baby in New Zealand killed by whooping cough this year.

The free vaccination from January 1 will last until the whooping cough outbreak finishes, Health Minister Tony Ryall said.

All pregnant women can receive the vaccine from their GP between 28 and 38 weeks of pregnancy.

A number of district health boards have been offering the vaccine free to pregnant women for the past few months.

Ms Pamata said she faced complications during her pregnancy that prevented her from having the whooping cough vaccine.

Alaya was born at 34 weeks and Ms Pamata needed a large tumour removed at the same time.

She said Alaya's first vaccinations would have been at 6-weeks-old.

Ms Pamata and Mr Ma'anaima said they wanted to warn other parents of the deadly disease.

"It is the hardest thing we've ever been through," Ms Pamata said.

"If you think back to the whole time we were in hospital, that feels like forever.

"We've got everything, from her last outfit she wore [to] her umbilical chord when was born. And that's all we have to remember her by."

Whooping cough

- 6700 cases since August last year

- More than 200 babies aged under 1 who required hospital treatment

- Free vaccines for pregnant women from January 1

- Outbreaks in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States

Source: Ministry of Health


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