New cases of whooping cough have emerged in Coolum.
New cases of whooping cough have emerged in Coolum. Thinkstock

Whooping cough cases more likely as vaccine weakens

VACCINATION against whooping cough is losing its effectiveness with new notifications of the highly-contagious and dangerous illness at a Sunshine Coast school.

Parents at Coolum State School received a notification this week there had been "confirmed cases of whooping cough in students from Prep to Year 4".

The notification including the warning in bold that the "infection can occur in fully-vaccinated children".

Respected GP Dr Mason Stevenson said this was because the vaccine was proving not to be as effective while the bacteria grew more resistant around the world.

"Yes, unfortunately the vaccine is less effective," Dr Stevenson said.

He stressed however the vaccine still provided the best protection against the illness as it reduced the severity and length of its course.

"With regard to whooping cough it appears the new refined vaccine is not as effective as the old-fashioned, triple antigen vaccine," Dr Stevenson said.

"This has been admitted to and discussed in medical journals in recent times.

"The old-fashioned triple antigen vaccine had over 100 different antigens against pertussis (whooping cough).

"But, unfortunately, it was responsible for an excess in high fevers and febrile convulsions, sometimes leading to cerebral damage.

"The new vaccine was created on only three antigens. This, combined with with abhorrent evolution of the Bordetella Pertussis bacteria make it more resistant to both vaccine and antibiotic treatments."

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Dr Herdy said there had been an "enduring whooping cough epidemic in Australia and throughout the world for the last six years".

"This is evidence both for the reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine and increasing resistance worldwide to old treatments.

"The vaccine still offers reasonable partial protection against whooping cough.

"It appeared to be effective for period of time until the Pertussis bacteria developed a partial immunity to the vaccine.

"It is for all of these reasons the Federal Government have backed and financed the reintroduction of 18-month-old babies whooping cough vaccine back into the schedule."

He said there were "behind the scenes efforts" to produce a more effective vaccine "as we speak".

Queensland Health Public Health Physician Dr Kerryn Coleman said there had been 144 cases of whooping cugh on the Coast, Noosa and Gympie council areas up to May 3.

This was similar to the average 157 notifications at this time of year from 2011 to 2015, but higher than in the past three years with only 38 cases at this time last year.

In the past four weeks, 17 notifications were received.

"In November and December 2015, a sharp upsurge in the numbers of whooping cough notifications locally was observed," Dr Coleman said.

"Notifications plateaued until February and then decreased. Although numbers are small, notifications appear to be increasing again."

Dr Coleman said whooping cough could occur in fully vaccinated children but "the disease would usually be mild".

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