Whooping cough death spurs call for vaccinations

The family of a 6-week-old Christchurch baby who died from whooping cough have advised people to get vaccinated to prevent another child's death.

A coroner has ruled Alaya-Reign Faalilo Ma'anaima's death in November 2012 could have been prevented if more people had been vaccinated.

Alaya-Reign had been induced six weeks early to allow doctors to remove a 5-kilogram benign tumour from her mother's stomach.

She was too young to have received her first vaccination for whooping cough when she began having coughing bouts and periods of turning blue about a month after she was born. Her parents, Jade Pamata and Simi Ma'anaima, took her to hospital, where it was confirmed she had contracted the disease.

She was transferred to intensive care soon after she began having periods of apnoea, which caused her to stop breathing.

Plans to transfer her to Auckland's Starship hospital were delayed when her condition continued to worsen and on November 9 she developed multi-organ failure.

Alaya-Reign died the next day with her family present.

In a report made public yesterday, coroner Sue Johnson said that vaccinations for pregnant women should continue to be encouraged. She urged parents, grandparents and other close contacts to get vaccinated before a baby was born.

Pamata said the family carried Alaya-Reign's memory with them "every day".

"There's not a day that goes by when we don't think about her."

Pamata had been offered a whooping cough vaccination while she was pregnant, but was told it could do more harm than good because of her tumour.

She had not known the rest of her family should have been vaccinated. She wanted to raise awareness of the disease to help prevent other deaths.

She and Ma'anaima recently welcomed a new baby to the family - named Uriah Jessica Reign, in memory of her sister.

The 4-month-old was up to date with all her vaccinations and her extended family had also been vaccinated for whooping cough.

"We're very over-protective of this one. [She] will definitely know about her older sister when she's older."

Grandmother Jessica Pamata said Alaya-Reign was the family's first grandchild. "If we had known and been aware of the dangers of [whooping cough] then we would have probably got everybody vaccinated. It really wasn't highlighted to us that we should have had it done."

Since a whooping cough epidemic began in August 2011, the Ministry of Health has recorded more than 8800 cases of the disease.

Canterbury District Health Board recorded the highest number of whooping cough cases nationally in both 2012 and 2013. In 2012, one out of five cases of the disease were in Canterbury. There were two deaths that year: Alaya-Reign and a 3-year-old elsewhere in the country. Ministry chief adviser child and youth health Pat Tuohy said the Government had taken considerable action to prevent further whooping cough deaths .

Whooping cough vaccinations have been government-funded for women in their third trimester of pregnancy since last January and about 16 per cent of pregnant women had taken up the offer.

Immunisation data issued this week showed 91 per cent of all 8-month-olds and 84 per cent of 6-week-olds were fully immunised.

Adults were at risk of catching whooping cough, even if they were vaccinated as children, and Baker recommended that funding be increased to vaccinate fathers and other adults who would had close contact with newborns.

The Press