Winner Director General's Award

Winner - Engaging with consumers, carers and the community

Public Health (Communicable Disease Control), Department of Health; Greg and Catherine Hughes: pertussisVIP/Light for Riley

Pertussis causes life-threatening illness is young infants.

During the most recent WA epidemic (2011–2012) pertussis was confirmed in 82 infants aged less than two months, 66 per cent of whom were hospitalised, with one death.

Until very recently, vaccinating the parents and carers shortly after delivery (‘cocooning’) was the preferred strategy for protecting newborns from pertussis.

But in 2014, two studies from the UK showed that vaccinating mothers during the third trimester was 91–93 per cent effective in preventing newborn pertussis infection.

WA Health created a comprehensive campaign, “pertussisVIP”, to encourage a high uptake of the new recommendation for antenatal pertussis immunisation.

This involved delivering education sessions and creating resources for OBs, GPs and midwives to enable them to confidently recommend pertussis vaccination during pregnancy.

Consumer and community engagement was undertaken by forming a unique but critical partnership with the Light for Riley Foundation, led by the parents of the infant who had recently died from pertussis.

Greg and Catherine Hughes have been strong supporters of the pertussisVIP program and communicate directly to expectant parents about the need to protect newborns through maternal vaccination.

The result has been that 5,195 pregnant women have been vaccinated in just four months. This equates to 61.2 per cent of all newborns being protected against pertussis in the first few months.

Public Health (Communicable Disease Control), Department of Health; Greg and Catherine Hughes