How long is the whooping cough vaccine working?
Whooping cough continues to be on the increase…a new study may show us one reason why!
There have been a few news reports that I have seen about a new study just published in The New England Journal of Medicine regarding how long the DTaP vaccine works in protecting against whooping cough. Children receive three doses of the vaccine as infants, one as a toddler and one as part of the traditional kindergarten shots. A booster shot of TDaP is given at age 11 because we know that immunity begins to decrease after the childhood series. Every adult is also recommended to receive one dose of the TDaP to protect our infants who are not completely immunized. This year the CDC is predicting that 2012 will have the largest number of whooping cough diagnosis ever. This study was done to try to understand why there have been recent outbreaks of whooping cough in the United Sates. The study shows that these outbreaks are due to several reasons. There are unvaccinated populations and there seems to be a decrease in a person’s immunity over time from the shots and a decreasing in immunity if a person actually gets the disease. It has been thought that if a person actually has whooping cough they will have immunity for between 4 and 20 years and the vaccine immunity will decrease between 4 and 12 years.
In the 1990’s children received the DPT vaccine which contained “whole cell pertussis”. Children now receive the DTaP which is an “acellular pertussis”. This switch occurred because there was more frequent side effects or reactions in children receiving the “whole cell pertussis”. In recent years, there are less high fevers and less serious reactions to the DTaP vaccine, but now there is a question whether this vaccine provides immunity that lasts as long. The study showed that every year past the “kindergarten shot” a child was more likely to be infected by whooping cough.
So what does that mean for parents?
- The best way to protect your children is still to get your child vaccinated on time and have everyone in your family up to date with a TDaP vaccine. If our babies, toddlers, school aged children, and adults all receive the immunizations the likelihood of whooping cough infection decreases.
- We may find that the results of this study will help the CDC and the AAP better understand the waning of immunity and this may help with a future recommendation regarding timing of booster vaccines for DTaP.
- Be open to the realization that science is evolving and continued learning and studies are great things, and that means that vaccine schedules change. It is a known fact that our bodies eventually lose immunity after having a natural infection or after a vaccine. So studies like this help us to understand the best schedule of vaccines to protect our children. This new generation of children who have received the “acellular pertussis” vaccine may actually need additional boosters. We will see what is recommended, but as parents we need to trust the recommendations of any vaccine schedule change because as we can see, it is always based on science.
So as a parent, be informed. Listen to the news, read the articles, research the studies in reputable medical journals and websites…but I know I will trust those experts who are much “smarter than me” to make the recommendations that are best for our children. Let’s see what recommendations follow this study, and until then, don’t wait, get your kids vaccinated on time.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.