Urgent need for pertussis policy

AUSTRALIA’S fragmented approach to pertussis immunisation is leaving vulnerable babies at risk, frustrated doctors have claimed.

In the wake of the death of a newborn baby boy in Victoria, experts are calling for a national pertussis strategy that provides free immunisation for parents and carers of babies.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth has confirmed a national public awareness campaign, first promised over a year ago, will be launched mid-year.

The baby, who died at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital last week, was the first whooping cough death in Victoria since 2004, but nationwide the death was the sixth of a child aged under six weeks since 2008. 

While the baby was too young to receive the first dose of the pertussis vaccine, the Victorian Health Department recommends babies be vaccinated from six weeks.

Robert Booy, a professor of paediatrics from Sydney’s Children’s Hospital at