Whooping Cough Vaccination is Important

Pertussis or whooping cough epidemic in California in 2010 teaches many lessons

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When California had the highest number of pertussis cases in six decades in 2010, public health officials took notice. Pertussis (whooping cough) is especially dangerous for babies.

A recent report conducted by the California Department of Public Health reviewed the cases of pertussis in 2010 to see what could be learned from the epidemic and how another one might be prevented.

"Follow the CDC's recommended schedule for vaccines."

The study, led by Kathleen Winter, MPH, and her colleagues reviewed 9,154 cases that took place between January 1 and December 31, 2010. The cases peaked in July, with the most number of cases throughout the summer and the fewest cases in the winter.

The ten children who died from pertussis were all under 3 months old. Of the 809 children who had been hospitalized, 62 percent were less than 3 months old.  

Babies under 6 months old had the highest rate of the disease.

Hispanic children had the highest rate of whooping cough in the group aged under 6 months old, while the highest rates among people aged 1 to 18 were white.

Because of the high number of cases in 2010, the California Department of Public Health began a large public health campaign to promote vaccination.

Individuals receive protection from whooping cough from the pertussis vaccine, which is part of the DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis) given to children in four doses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the first dose at 2 months old, followed by three boosters before 18 months old.

The CDC then recommends that children between 4 and 6 years old get the DTaP booster and children between 11 and 18 years old get the Tdap booster, which is also a diptheria-tetanus-pertussis shot designed for older individuals.

Adults should also get the Tdap booster vaccinations since the vaccine's effectiveness fades over time.

The California Department of Public Health's public information campaign recommended that all adults over age 64, all children with insufficient booster between 7 to 9 years old and all pregnant women get the vaccine.

The CDC also made recommendations in 2011 that all pregnant women receive the Tdap after their 20th week of pregnancy.

Babies under 2 months old are especially at risk because they are too young to be vaccinated. Therefore, all adults and children in these babies' households should be up to date on their DTaP or Tdap boosters.

Because of the number of 2010 cases among children under 12, the researchers concluded that the last DTaP booster's effectiveness may not last long enough until children receive the Tdap.

The Tdap does appear to be effective since there were fewer cases among children aged 11 to 14.

"In the absence of better vaccines, it is imperative that strategies to protect young infants directly, such as maternal vaccination during pregnancy, be evaluated for effectiveness," said Winter. "In addition, it is critical that providers continue to be vigilant and promptly diagnose and treat young infants with whooping cough."

The study was published July 23 in The Journal of Pediatrics. The study was internally funded by the California Department of Public Health without additional funding from grants or industry. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 9, 2012
Last Updated:
May 30, 2013