Pregnant women can get protection from whooping cough in the country's busiest birthing region.
Counties Manukau District Health Board decided to fund whooping cough immunisation for pregnant women after 20 weeks.
That means expectant mums can be immunised against the deadly cough at no cost.
The move is seen as "a protective barrier" for the most vulnerable – babies under 12 months old, board spokeswoman Lauren Young says.
"We're really pleased to offer this to our community.
"We're in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic that can have devastating effects on babies," she says.
Around 8000 babies are born in Counties Manukau every year.
About 70 per cent of babies who get whooping cough will be hospitalised, seven will need intensive care and one or two will suffer permanent medical complications or die.
Ms Young says the board is looking at further funding for a "cocooning" programme that will immunise family members for free.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service says mothers who are immunised pass antibodies to their babies during the final few weeks of pregnancy.
These antibodies help protect the baby for around six weeks and will eventually wear off.
It recommends babies have the free vaccinations at six weeks, three months and five months. Babies will not be protected until they receive all three doses.
From January 1 to June 12 this year 331 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Auckland.
Phone Healthline on 0800611116, visit your doctor or visit go the arphs.govt.nz for more information on whooping cough.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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