Whooping cough (or pertussis)can be especially lethal to vulnerable populations such as infants, the elderly and anyone who has a compromised immune system. Now, a new study suggests that keeping up with vaccinations to prevent the disease is critical and that older children (ages 7 to 10) may be particularly vulnerable to contracting whooping cough as the effectiveness of vaccines they received earlier in their childhood wear off.
In 2012 more than 36,000 whooping cough cases were reported in the United States with 16 of them lethal; most of them in infants younger than three months of age, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
The vaccine, commonly referred to as the DTaP vaccine, also includes immunizations for diphtheria and tetanus. It is given in a five-dose series at 2, 4 and 6 months; at 15 to 18 months; and between 4 and 6 years. An adolescent booster is recommended between age 11 and 12.
A California study, recently reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that while the vaccine remains extremely effective for as long as five years; its potency does diminish over time. Researchers concluded, amongst other things, that taking children for booster vaccines at ages 11 and 12, is critical.
And while more research is needed, study authors also suggested their finding may warrant further examination into whether additional vaccine boosters are needed throughout childhood.