Whooping Cough Tdap Vaccines for the Family

Doctor giving patient injection in volunteer clinic
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Vaccines that provide protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) aren't new.

DTP, after all, had been around since 1948 and DTaP since 1997. And before those combination vaccines, we had individual vaccines against these vaccine-preventable diseases.

What is new about Tdap is that these vaccines provide protection for older kids and adults.

Types of Tdap Vaccines

Boostrix was the first Tdap vaccine approved by the FDA. A similar Tdap vaccine, Adacel, was approved soon after.

Boostrix and Adacel include the tetanus toxoid (T), reduced diphtheria toxoid (d) and acellular pertussis (ap) vaccine in a single shot.

Together, these vaccines provided adolescents with some protection against pertussis, in addition to protecting them against tetanus and diphtheria. Their approval by the FDA was welcome news to parents and pediatricians who had been worried about the increase in pertussis outbreaks in recent years.

According to the FDA, '"Pertussis is a highly communicable disease of the respiratory tract that can be especially serious for infants less than one-year-old, and may even be fatal. Pertussis can cause spells of coughing and choking that make breathing difficult.

Pertussis is generally less severe in adolescents, but it is thought that they might transmit the disease to susceptible infants and other family members.

In the last 20 years, rates of pertussis infection have been increasing in very young infants who have not received all their immunizations and in adolescents and adults."

Who Needs a Tdap Vaccine?

Teens will be glad to hear that the approval of a new vaccine doesn't really mean that they need to get another shot. Instead, it replaces the Td (tetanus booster) that they were already receiving when they were 11 or 12 years old.

The Tdap vaccine:

  • Can be given to kids between the ages of 7 and 10 years if they are not fully vaccinated with other whooping cough vaccines, like DTaP
  • Is also recommended for adults between the ages of 19 and 64 as a one-time dose, replacing one of their 10 year Td boosters.
  • Can help you surround a new baby with protection against pertussis, which is why having a baby at home is a great time for adults to get a Tdap shot (cocooning strategy of protection)
  • Should be given to seniors over the age of 65 if they are going to have close contact with a newborn or infant less than 12 months of age (also part of a good cocooning strategy)
  • Can be given to seniors over the age of 65 to replace one of their 10 year Td boosters

And most importantly, a Tdap vaccine should be given to pregnant women during each and every pregnancy.

What to Know About the Tdap Vaccines

Other things to know about the Tdap vaccines include that they:

  • Are preservative-free (which means that, like most new vaccines, they don't contain thimerosal)
  • Are made with reduced quantities of the same antigens that are in the Infanrix DTaP vaccine that many kids already get
  • The best time to get Tdap when you are pregnant is between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation to help "maximize the maternal antibody response and passive antibody transfer to the infant"
  • Should be given immediately postpartum if not given during pregnancy
  • Likely provides only "moderate protection against pertussis during the first year and then waned rapidly so that little protection remained 2-3 years after vaccination."

And although the Tdap vaccines don't work as well as we would like, they do work. One study concluded that "Patients with pertussis vaccination had decreased morbidity characterized by less severe illness and significantly reduced illness duration."

Get educated and get your kids vaccinated and protected against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

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Article Sources
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  • Barlow RS. Vaccinated Children and Adolescents With Pertussis Infections Experience Reduced Illness Severity and Duration, Oregon, 2010-2012 Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Jun; 58(11):1523-9.
  • CDC. FDA Approval of Expanded Age Indication for a Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine. MMWR. September 23, 2011 / 60(37);1279-1280
  • CDC. Updated Recommendations for Use of Tetanus Toxoid, Reduced Diphtheria Toxoid, and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine (Tdap) in Pregnant Women - Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2012. MMWR 2013; 62 (07):131-5.
  • Klein, Nicola P. Waning Tdap Effectiveness in Adolescents. Pediatrics. Volume 137, number 3, March 2016