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Whooping Cough Vaccine for Teens, Adults

Vaccines Should Help Reduce Recent Rise in Whooping Cough
WebMD Health News

March 15, 2005 - An FDA expert panel has recommended the approval of a pair of new vaccines designed to prevent whooping cough in adolescents and adults.

Panelists unanimously backed the whooping cough vaccine Boostrix, for 10- to 18-year-olds, and Adacel, for patients between 11 and 64.

Children currently receive a combination diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccine (DPT). Infants are typically vaccinated with three shots at 2, 4, and 6 months of age.

Whooping Cough on the Rise

But immunity to whooping cough -- also known as pertussis -- and the other two diseases wanes over years, leaving teens and adults vulnerable to all three. The diphtheria and tetanus booster shots available to adolescents and adults don't include whooping cough protection, leaving wide swaths of the population open to infection.

Whooping cough infections have steadily risen in the U.S. since the mid-1970s, with 18,000 cases reported in 2004. While the disease is typically not serious in adults, up to 75% of all cases in infants and children are thought to come from infected family members.

Whooping cough was a major cause of infant death in the early and mid-1900s. Today the disease still kills an average of 25 infants per year in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The vaccines are similar to shots already widely given to U.S. infants and children.

"Adding pertussis to the current tetanus and diphtheria booster shot for teens is a logical strategy to prevent this disease in adolescents," says Colin Marchant, an adjunct associate professor at Boston University and a GlaxoSmithKline consultant, in a company statement. GlaxoSmithKline, a WebMD sponsor, makes Boostrix.

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