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Whooping Cough Vaccine

Whooping cough is on the rise in the U.S., so an additional booster shot of the vaccine is recommended for older children, adolescents and adults.

Due to the increase in incidences of pertussis, or whooping cough, an additional booster vaccine is being recommended because immunity to the disease wanes over time.  Dr. Marcela Rodriguez, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains why the additional dose of the vaccine is necessary.

SOUND BITE:  “I think this has been happening because of mainly unvaccinated people who transferred disease to little babies and infants who are too young to be vaccinated.  Also because people who had been vaccinated in the past, they just have waning immunity, meaning their immune system just gets weakened with time after the vaccine.”

Dr. Rodriquez says often when adolescents and young adults get whooping cough, they have a milder form of the disease.  The disease may not be diagnosed and they can pass it on to infants and young children, who are affected more severely.  Some infants can even die from whooping cough.  She explains the new recommendation.

SOUND BITE:   “. . . all babies, infants should be vaccinated at two, four and six months, 15 to 18 months, then a booster at four to six years, so a total of five doses of pertussis vaccine.  And then also, adolescents need to be vaccinated with a vaccine called DTaP that will protect them against pertussis.  This needs to be done between 11 and 18 years of age.”

Dr. Rodriquez says individuals in the 19 to 64 age group should talk to their primary care physician or pediatrician about getting the whooping cough booster vaccine.  If you or a family member has symptoms like a common cold, which get worse after two weeks with serious coughing and a unique high-pitch “whooping” sound, you should see your physician.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.