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Who is at risk of whooping cough?

Page last updated 12 October 2018

Anyone can get whooping cough. While it is most dangerous to babies, it is actually more common in adolescents and adults. It’s important to remember that natural infection does not provide long-term protection and repeat infection can occur. 

Babies are at increased risk until they’ve had at least 3 doses of vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.
Some Australians, due to their age or prior medical condition, are at an increased risk of contracting the disease and may have more severe complications.

These people include: 

  • babies
  • people with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • healthcare professionals
  • childcare workers
  • the elderly 
  • smokers 

Anyone with asthma or lung disease is more at risk of complications if they get whooping cough.

The longer it’s been since you were last vaccinated, the more at risk you can be of contracting the disease if you are exposed to an infected person. As immunity diminishes over time, you can still get whooping cough even if you've been vaccinated previously. 

Talk to your healthcare professional if you have concerns about your immunisation status.

Sources & Citations


  1. NHMRC. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. 2013; 10th edition: Pertussis: 302 – 316. Available at:
  2. De Serres G et al. Morbidity of pertussis in adolescents and adults. J Infect Dis 2000;182:174-9. Available at:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
  5. NSW Health. Available at:

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0136a - Date of preparation May 2018