By Ralph Schwartz
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in the state to analyze cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, from the current epidemic.
The results of the CDC’s analysis is bad news/good news for the two vaccines used recently to prevent the disease, called DTaP and Tdap. The former is recommended for young children; Tdap is given to 11 and 12-year-olds, and adults.
The good news is that by a reasonable standard, the vaccines work. The bad news: They lose their potency after a couple years.
More on the good news: Even with DTaP’s waning effectiveness, children who were not immunized were eight times more likely to get pertussis than those who were up-to-date with their DTaP shots. Also, even when vaccinated children get the disease, they are less infectious, they are sick for a shorter time and the symptoms are less severe.
However, because both of the newer vaccines have been found to wear off slightly, incidence rates of pertussis among 7 to 10-year-olds and 13 to 14-year-olds have been increasing.
Using information gathered from the Washington epidemic, the CDC is conducting a new study on Tdap effectiveness. For now, the agency stands by its vaccines:
“Vaccination continues to be the single most effective strategy to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by pertussis. Vaccination of pregnant women and contacts of infants is recommended to protect infants too young to be vaccinated. In light of the increased incidence of pertussis in Washington and elsewhere, efforts should focus on full implementation of DTaP and Tdap recommendations to prevent infection and protect infants.”