Australian vaccine preventable disease epidemiological review series: Pertussis, 2013-2018

Commun Dis Intell (2018). 2022 Jan 27:46. doi: 10.33321/cdi.2022.46.3.


Introduction: Significant recent changes in Australian pertussis immunisation policy include the progressive introduction of funded pertussis immunisation programs for pregnant women, from late 2014 to mid-2015 at jurisdictional level and then under the National Immunisation Program from July 2018, and reintroduction of the 18-month booster dose in 2016. This study analyses pertussis notification, hospitalisation, and mortality data from 2013 to 2018 in the context of trends since 1995.

Methods: This study used data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, the National Hospital Morbidity Database, and the Australian Coordinating Registry, for descriptive analysis of pertussis notifications, hospitalisations and deaths in Australia by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) status from 2013 to 2018, examining trends between 1995 and 2012 at both the national and jurisdictional level. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) were utilised to compare pertussis incidence in infants aged < 2 months and 6-11 months for each year from the 2015-2018 (post-maternal-vaccination) period against the 2010-2013 (pre-maternal-vaccination) period.

Results and discussion: Annual national all-age incidence of pertussis notifications between 2013 and 2018 was 63.6 per 100,000 population, 40% less than between 2006 and 2012. Between 2016 and 2018, infants aged < 2 months had the lowest notification rates of age groups < 5 years old, with the highest notification rates in pre-adolescents aged 9-11 years. Compared with the baseline period (2010-2013), the IRR for infants aged < 2 months decreased in each year during the post-maternal-vaccination period from 0.4 (95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 0.3-0.5) in 2015 to 0.1 (95% CI: 0.1-0.2) in 2018. For infants aged 6-11 months, the IRR was 0.9 (95% CI: 0.8-1.0) in 2015, 1.1 (95% CI: 1.0-1.2) in 2016 and declined to 0.7 (95% CI: 0.6-0.8) in 2017 and 2018. Notification and hospitalisation rates in Indigenous children were 3-8 times as high as rates in non-Indigenous children across all age groups < 5 years old.

Conclusion: Pertussis remains the second most frequently notified vaccine preventable disease in Australia, after influenza, but dramatic decreases in incidence have been observed in infants too young to receive any doses of pertussis-containing vaccine.

Keywords: Pertussis; disease surveillance; epidemiology; immunisation; vaccine preventable disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs
  • Infant
  • Pertussis Vaccine
  • Pregnancy
  • Vaccine-Preventable Diseases*
  • Whooping Cough* / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough* / prevention & control


  • Pertussis Vaccine