Pertussis Vaccine Fails, Still Mandated

February 11, 2013

Sick KidIn response to the still increasing Pertussis (AKA Whooping Cough) epidemic, at least one state is considering removing or further limiting the option to opt-out of getting the Pertussis vaccine.

The problem is, testing has revealed that 11 of 12 cases sampled are resistant to the Pertussis vaccine. Further testing will explore how widespread the vaccine-resistant strains are, but given case numbers are still climbing, expect that it is very widespread.

The current Pertussis vaccine is designed around one specific part of the virus, a part that the virus has mutated away. The previous iteration of the Pertussis vaccine focused on the whole virus, but had more severe side-effects leading to the switch to the milder but now far less effective Pertussis vaccine.

The problem with Pertussis is that Pertussis symptoms can resemble a cold, but Pertussis is far more life-threatening than just a cold. Most at risk are infants, who develop the tell-tale whooping cough, expelling all their air during coughing, then sucking it back in with a loud whoop. Whooping cough is a pertussis symptoms that can cause them to turn blue from lack of oxygen and then die.

Adults fare better with the disease, but Pertussis symptoms aren’t easily recognized, since adults don’t often get the whooping cough. And while most adults were vaccinated during childhood, they shouldn’t assume they still have immunity—the Pertussis vaccine wears off. To be protected, and to protect those with weakened immune systems around you, you’ll need the booster—the TDaP (it also protects against Tetanus and Diphtheria). Even if a milder vaccine, it offers protection against some strains of Pertussis.

How are health officials handling the Pertussis epidemic in your area? Is your state discussing vaccine exemptions?

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