New Zealand will offer the whooping cough vaccine to frontline health workers who are in close contact with infants in a bid to prevent the disease being spread.

The immunisation will be given free of charge to midwives, well child workers, practice nurses and GPs from 1 October to protect those most vulnerable to the disease, the government said.

The voluntary immunisation is part of the government’s effort to reduce the severity of any whooping cough epidemic in New Zealand.