Pertussis vaccine: Do I need it?
Since there have been commercials on TV about the pertussis vaccine, I have been getting tons of questions regarding who needs it. In the 1930's the pertussis vaccine was created and was mixed with a diphtheria and tetanus vaccine, thus creating the DTP vaccine and it was given widespread to Americans, and it was given in 4 doses with a 90% reduction in pertussis. In the early 1990's the vaccine was changed to the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis) which is inactivated and causes less reaction with equal effectiveness. There is also a Tdap vaccine, which is very similar but given as a one time dose to adolescents and adults requiring a "booster" or the vaccine for the first time.
What is pertussis?
Pertussis is more commonly known as Whooping cough. It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, that is common in the mouth, throat, and nose and it is highly contagious to those not vaccinated. It is spread through coughing and sneezing and contaminating surfaces with the germs, and people are contagious from the time that they notice symptoms of the infection until up to three weeks after initial infection, if not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics can shorten the infection time to 5-7 days.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms are similar to a common cold with runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever, and usually a mild persistent cough. The cough becomes more severe in the following 1 to 2 weeks after initial onset and become rapid spastic coughing, in which there is a high pitch "whoop" while people try to catch their breath between coughs. Some people even turn blue or vomit during episodes of coughing, then return to their baseline and are totally normal, and this lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. Usually cough medicines are ineffective in preventing the coughing fits, and they usually occur at night with a dry throat.
Why is this a big deal now?
Well, it has just become an issue that people from all ages groups across the US (and the world) are getting infected with pertussis, because the immunity following the infection or the vaccine is not lifelong (like many other vaccines) and it is so highly contagious that it is becoming a public health problem; children are becoming infected by older adults and vice versa, and we need to prevent that! SInce 2000, over half of the cases reported are of children under the age of 1 year old, and they are the highest risk category for death as a complication from this infection.
Who needs to be vaccinated?
All infants should get the DTap, and it is a series of shots at ages 2, 4, 6, and 15-18 months old and a fifth booster shot is recommended between age 4-6 years old. And anyone who has not been vaccinated ages 10-65 years old should get series of Tdap (within one to two months get dose #1 & #2, doses #2/#3 within 6-12 months). Anyone over the age of 65 that will be in close contact with small children (grandparents, healthcare workers, child care workers) should get a one time dose of Tdap. Also, Children 7-10 years old who never received a full DTaP series should be re-vaccinated. Also, any older adult that requests a vaccination can be vaccinated.
There are minimal complications from the vaccine, such as soreness and redness at the site, but it decreases your risk of pertussis up to 90%, and it keeps children and adults safe from the complications that can occur from this infection. If you can prevent yourself from infecting a small child with an infection that could kill them, you would. So, go talk to your HCP and find out if you should get the pertussis vaccine and prevent the spread of this infection to the people around you and keep yourself safe!
Yours in Good Health