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What is a Whooping Cough Vaccination?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 16, 2024
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A vaccine to combat whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was developed in the 1940s to combat the deadly disease. Before that point, whooping cough was a leading cause of severe illness and death in young children. Immunization via the whooping cough vaccination is now a standard for infants, and inoculation against pertussis is generally combined with vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus.

The whooping cough vaccination is no different than other immunization techniques, in the sense that it has been refined and improved over the years. The original diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis injection (DTP) was eventually replaced with a new whooping cough vaccination. This version still contained protection against diphtheria and tetanus, but included only the acelluar parts of the whooping cough vaccine needed to fight the bacterial infection. The injection came to be known as the diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP).

Children are given five injections of the DTaP vaccine, with the first administered at the age of two months. Booster shots are then provided at the age of four months, six months, 18 months, and four to six years. In 2005, a further improvement was made to the whooping cough vaccination. A one-time inoculation given to adolescents any time between ages 11 and 18 (Tdap) offers higher degrees of protection against tetanus but contains reduced amounts of the diphtheria and acellular pertussis bacteria.

The whooping cough vaccination is regarded as a crucial inoculation for infants and children, and is recommended by health organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The need for the vaccination cannot be stressed strongly enough, as whooping cough is an extremely contagious infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread through the air, and people without protection can easily contract the disease. Although children are most susceptible, whooping cough is a danger to adults who either did not complete a full course of vaccinations or who have lost a degree of immunity.

The whooping cough vaccination has proven to be very effective in stopping this childhood killer, however the shots do sometimes result in side effects such as fever, soreness, and extended bouts of crying in infants. For these reasons, and because there is a misconception among some segments of the general public that whooping cough had been wiped out, some people have decided to forgo the whooping cough vaccination. As a result, more and more new cases of whooping cough are seen each year.

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