WA health authorities have extended a free whooping cough vaccine to grandparents and other carers of newborn babies, as the number of cases continues to climb.

There have been 232 cases of the respiratory infection this year, compared with 107 at the same time last year, which was considered an epidemic year. There were 1355 cases in total last year.

Six weeks ago, the State Government announced a free vaccine program for parents of newborns in a bid to control the biggest outbreak of the potentially fatal infection since 2004.

The WA Health Department said yesterday it had since extended the program to include grandparents and household carers of newborn babies, who are the most vulnerable because they have not completed the infant vaccination schedule.

The epidemic has been blamed on the vaccine not being 100 per cent effective and not enough people being immunised, particularly adults needing boosters who can put young babies at risk of pneumonia, seizures and death.

The West Australian

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