Getting Vaccinated Against Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes strong, uncontrollable coughing. The violent coughing often makes it hard to breathe, and so someone with pertussis must take deep breathes which sound like “whooping” noises.
Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but newborns and babies are at highest risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Vaccination is the best way to prevent getting sick with pertussis.
Children are routinely vaccinated against pertussis starting at two months of age. Since young babies do not yet have immunity to pertussis, it is important that children and adults who will be around a newborn baby get the pertussis vaccine. This lowers the chance that the baby will be exposed to pertussis.
The pertussis vaccine is given in a vaccine mixture that not only protects against the disease, but also against two other serious diseases that can affect children and adults: diphtheria and tetanus. To guard against these infections, children are given four shots of the DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis) vaccine between ages 2 months to 2 years and a fifth shot at four years of age. The diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap.
The Pertussis Booster
Some things about the Tdap booster to keep in mind:
- At what age should you get a booster shot?
Even after getting the first series of DTaP, both kids and adults will still need to get the Tdap booster vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that children get one dose of Tdap between the ages of 11 and 12.
Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who had not received Tdap before should also get Tdap. This takes the place of one dose of Td, the tetanus diphtheria booster, which is usually given every ten years
- Are there times when it is more important to get a booster shot?
Adults age 65 and older who have not gotten their Tdap shot before and who will be near young children should get one dose. Children 7-10 years old who did get the full series of DTaP should also get a dose of Tdap.
- What is the difference between Tdap and Td?
Tdap should not be confused with Td which is a booster vaccine given to kids and adults that only protects against tetanus and diphtheria, not pertussis. Adolescents and adults should routinely get a Td shot every ten years. A dose of Tdap can be given in place of one dose of Td. Tdap can be given no matter when Td was last received.
This information is not meant to replace a doctor's advice. Be sure to talk to your doctor about immunizations you may need.