Secondary students from Years 7 to 10 will receive whooping cough vaccinations this year in a bid to help curb an upsurge in the potentially deadly disease. This is in line with national recommendations to protect students at an earlier age.
The move comes on top of the government initiative announced on January 18 to reintroduce free whooping cough vaccine for expectant parents and parents of newborns.
As part of a broader immunisation push, the Government will introduce ‘No Jab, No Play’ regulations requiring children be fully immunised for their age before they can be enrolled in childcare.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester said the schools campaign, which will also vaccinate against tetanus and diphtheria, will provide all secondary students with earlier protection. Experience shows that better vaccine uptake occurs with students in Year 7 rather than Year 10. This initiative of the National Immunisation Program is in partnership with the Commonwealth Government.
From 2016, it will be provided each year for incoming Year 7 students, rather than Year 10 as in previous years.
Dr Lester said the number of whooping cough notifications in Victoria rose by 57.7 per cent from 2013 to 2014 – from 2926 to 4615. Notifications in the 10-14 year age group increased by 43 per cent.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that affects the air passages and breathing. It causes severe coughing spasms and can lead to complications such as haemorrhage, convulsions, pneumonia, brain inflammation and death.
“Most of the cases of whooping cough which we are seeing are in older children and adults, who contract the disease as their immunity from childhood vaccinations fades over time,” Dr Lester said.
“This schools initiative will increase immunity for teenagers and help protect them from this disease.”
Reviewed 09 February 2015