Whooping Cough Vaccine Recommended for Older Adults


All adults age 65 and older need to talk to their doctors about whooping cough (pertussis) in an effort to not just protect themselves but also their loved ones.  A new study on the safety of the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine supports the recommendation that those 65 and older get the vaccine to protect themselves and others, particularly young babies. This advice to older adults here in Washington comes as reported U.S. cases of whopping cough are at the highest level since the 1950s. An extremely contagious respiratory illness, pertussis puts infants at greatest risk for severe complications, including death. Immunity is difficult to maintain in the community because infants cannot be vaccinated until they are 2 months old. As a result, they may be at risk, especially from grandparents and caregivers who have the disease. In a new study, researchers in California found that adverse events following Tdap vaccination in seniors were mostly minor. “Although there is a small increased risk of injection site reaction following Tdap vaccination in the elderly, it is no more common than that following the traditional tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine,” said study investigator Hung Fu Tseng, who is with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. The researchers' study included 119,573 seniors who received the Tdap vaccine and the same number of people who received the traditional Td vaccine. The researchers found that the risk for adverse events following vaccination was comparable among both groups. The authors hope the findings will allay any fears among older adults about the safety of the Tdap vaccine and prompt more doctors to urge across-the-board immunization, which is crucial in the wake of recent pertussis outbreaks here in Washington state and elsewhere. The 2013 recommendations call for infants older than 2 months, children, teens, adults (including pregnant women, parents, and health care workers), and those over 65 to be vaccinated. This article was published in the Janaury 2013 issue of Northwest Prime Time. John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of “The Medical Minute.” He can be reached at medicalminutes@gmail.com.

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