With infection rates at 50-year high, whooping cough vaccine recommended for seniors

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Adults ages 65 and older are being urged with renewed emphasis to get the whooping cough (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis/Tdap) vaccine, according to a new study published Thursday.

The findings, which were published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, show that U.S. cases of the bacterial infection are at the highest level since the 1950s. Infants younger than a year have the greatest risk and mortality from the disease. It's believed if more seniors are vaccinated, it will lower the number of children who are affected.

In the Kaiser Permanente study, more than 119,000 seniors received the Tdap vaccine. The same number received the traditional Td vaccine. Seven health maintenance organizations across the U.S. participated in the study. The risk for adverse post-vaccination reactions was comparable between both groups.

More than 50% of infants younger than 1 year old who get pertussis are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and up to 2% die. Infants cannot be vaccinated until they are 2 months old.  

"Pertussis immunization is important, particularly since one of the most common sources of pertussis in infants is their relatives, including their grandparents," said author Hung Fu Tseng, Ph.D., MPH. "We suggest that clinicians follow CDC's recommendation and talk to older adult patients about vaccination against pertussis to protect themselves and their family members."

Click here to read "Safety of a Tetanus-Diphtheria-Acellular Pertussis Vaccine When Used Off-Label in an
Elderly Population."
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