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Whoops! Don’t forget your booster shot

booster shotOne vaccine parents know very well is the one that protects their children against the dreaded whooping cough. Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be fatal in infants and young children and causes violent coughing that makes it difficult for them to breathe. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine researched how much the effectiveness of the vaccine, which has a five-dose schedule during childhood, fades over time.

The study reviewed the cases of 277 fully vaccinated children between the ages 4 and 12 who had whooping cough and compared them with two control groups, one of 3,318 children in the same age range who tested negative for the disease and another of 6,086 who hadn’t been tested. Researchers found that children with pertussis were likely to have received their last dose of vaccine earlier than those in the control groups. As children aged, the rates of whooping cough increased, from 4.5 percent in 6-year-olds to 12.2 percent in 8-year-olds and 18.5 percent in 10-year-olds.

To help prevent your child from becoming infected by whooping cough as they age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adolescents ages 11–18 and adults ages 19–64 receive a single dose of the Tdap vaccine, which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria, then have Td boosters every 10 years. Families expecting a baby and people who plan to care for a baby should get the Tdap vaccine at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant.