As the parent of an infant you may have recently been warned about the outbreaks of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, around our country. Have you seen the commercials cautioning about your baby’s never ending cough or the warnings that parents could be the one responsible for passing along such a terrible disease? Accordingly, pediatricians are urging parents to vaccinate themselves, as well as their children. But is vaccinating truly getting the job done?
According to Reuters, CDC researchers believe that vaccination is still the most effective way to prevent pertussis, even though research is showing that kids are still susceptible to the disease.
“During a recent whooping cough outbreak in California, kids who hadn’t been vaccinated against the disease were nine times more likely to get it than those who had received the entire five-shot series, researchers found.”
But even among children who were fully vaccinated, the longer it had been since their final dose of the DTaP vaccine (the combination vaccine that also protects against diphtheria and tetanus), the higher their risk of coming down with whooping cough.
The lead researcher on the study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the effectiveness of many childhood vaccines is known to decrease over the years after vaccination.
Because of such waning immunity, a DTaP booster was recently added to the vaccine schedule for 11- to-12-year-olds, on top of the five doses traditionally given between age 2 months and 6 years.
“Pertussis vaccines are still our best tool to prevent pertussis,” said Lara Misegades, from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
“The first couple of years after children complete their vaccine series, vaccine effectiveness is still high.” Her team’s study, she told Reuters Health, “Reinforces the importance of getting the adolescent DTaP booster.”
According to the new study, 7.8 percent of the kids who got whooping cough hadn’t received any DTaP vaccines, compared to 0.9 percent of their pertussis-free peers.
Children who had finished their vaccine series recently were the least likely to become infected. For example, just 2.8 percent of kids who got sick had received their fifth DTaP dose in the past year, compared to 17.6 percent of those who didn’t come down with whooping cough.
But with each year that passed since the child’s last vaccine dose, their odds of getting pertussis rose.
“The message should clearly not be, ‘Don’t get the vaccine because it doesn’t work,'” said Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a pediatrician and infectious diseases researcher from the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
“It works, but we need to continue to work to improve it,” Shapiro, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, told Reuters Health. “The problem is we don’t really know what should be done.”
He said one strategy might be to give an earlier DTaP booster dose, or to consider a different type of pertussis vaccine – but each of those ideas will require more research.
Misegades said the CDC also recommends catch-up vaccination for everyone who hasn’t gotten their entire DTaP series.
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