New Pertussis Shot Advised for Adolescents and Adults

By Christina Elston

Federal health officials are now recommending that both adults and adolescents be re-vaccinated against whooping cough (or pertussis). The idea is to create a "cocoon of protection" that will safeguard infants against the illness. Immunity gained from the childhood vaccination doesn't take hold until 6 months of age; and it wears off during adolescence. This leaves adults and adolescents vulnerable to the disease and in danger of spreading it to infants, for whom it can be fatal.

There were 92 infant deaths from pertussis between 2000 and 2004. Last year, the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded the highest number of reported pertussis cases in four decades - nearly 26,000.

A new pertussis vaccine, brand name Adacel, also protects against tetanus and diphtheria, replacing the booster that adolescents and adults are supposed to have every 10 years. The CDC recommends that all adults receive one dose of the new vaccine if it has been 10 years or more since their last tetanus/DpT booster. Adults in close contact with infants less than 12 months of age should be vaccinated if it has been at least 2 years since their last booster.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently recommended that all adolescents be re-vaccinated against pertussis at age 11 or 12, and that older adolescents catch up by being re-vaccinated as well.

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