TOO TRAGIC: Baby Dana Elizabeth McCaffery pictured enjoying a bath with the help of siblings James and Aisling. Dana died on Monday after contracting whooping cough.
TOO TRAGIC: Baby Dana Elizabeth McCaffery pictured enjoying a bath with the help of siblings James and Aisling. Dana died on Monday after contracting whooping cough.

Whooping cough claims Lennox infant

DANA Elizabeth McCaffery never stood a chance.

Only weeks after her birth Dana, the Lennox Head grand-daughter of former Kangaroo Ken McCaffery, contracted whooping cough.

On Monday she died. She was only four weeks old.

“We feel cheated and are broken-hearted, but take strength that our girl fought so courageously to beat this insidious disease that claims the most vulnerable,” Dana's parents, Toni and David, said in a statement to The Northern Star yesterday.

Dana's death - the first death of an infant from whooping cough in NSW since 1997 - has triggered new debate about the importance of vaccination against the disease.

“We miss her so much and are devastated that such a beautiful, innocent child is the victim of ignorance. She never stood a chance against this epidemic,” Mr and Mrs McCaffery said in their statement.

In the wake of her death, the North Coast Area Health Service is now advising parents to have their babies immunised at six weeks of age.

However, 'bringing the vaccination schedule forward would not have saved the baby that died on Monday', the service's public health director, Paul Corben, conceded.

“The standard schedule was two months, four months and six month intervals, but we are asking in context of the current outbreak that people commence their baby's first vaccination at six weeks.

“The new schedule will be six weeks, four months and six months of age.”

Mr Corben said the community would have to work together to ensure no more children died from the illness, by vaccinating children and adults alike.

Mr Corben was backed by prominent Lismore paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, who said protecting infants from whooping cough required a co-ordinated community-wide effort.

“The only way to stop babies getting infected with whooping cough is by vaccination, there is no other way,” he said.

“The vaccination rates on the North Coast are the worst in Australia. This is why we have so many incidences in this area compared with other parts of Australia.

“Parents should be alarmed, whooping cough kills little babies. We must get our vaccination rates up so adults don't pass the disease on to babies.”

Whatever comes next will be too late for Dana, Toni and David.

“Our gorgeous Dana has touched so many people - we just wish we could still hold her and see her grow into a beautiful woman,” they said.

Whooping Cough Facts
  • The Northern Rivers has the highest rates of whooping cough in Australia.
  • The illness hits hardest in communities with low vaccination rates.
  • The disease can be fatal in babies.
  • Adults need to be vaccinated, as well as children.
  • NSW Department of Health provides free vaccines to parents, grandparents and people who care for new babies.


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