Whooping cough vaccine fades in pre-teens

Research from California shows that the whooping cough vaccine is effective about half the time it is given, but for children in the age range of 8-12 years, it is effective just 24% of the time.

Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a bacterial disease that produces a serious cough and can in some cases lead to pneumonia, inability to breathe or death. The cough is characteristically a ‘whoop’ sound, hence the name.

Pertussis vaccination is a 5 shot series, recommended for children at two months, four months, six months, eighteen months and again at four to six years old. It is known to have a short life span, which is why a booster is recommended at age 12-13 years. However, the spike in outbreaks of whooping cough in the 8-12 years age range would suggest that an earlier age for a booster could be recommended – but currently the booster is not safe for children under age nine.

In a study carried out by Dr David Witt at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California, USA, 132 children under the age of 18 years had tested positive for pertussis between March and October 2010. Of these, 81% had been fully immunised, 8% had never been immunised and 11% had received at least one pertussis shot.

Source: Clinical Infectious Diseases


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First Published April 2012

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