Whooping Cough Shot Targets Youths, Adults
Proposed Booster Shot Also Covers Tetanus, Diphtheria
June 2, 2005 -- A new booster shot for whooping cough (pertussis),
diphtheria, and tetanus appears to work in adolescents and adults, and it's as
safe as older versions.
The new shot, called Adacel, is not yet on the market. In early May, the FDA
approved a similar combination booster shot, called Boostrix.
Whooping cough is easily spread and most dangerous in babies less than 1
year old, who may even die from the disease. Vaccination is given to children
and infants as a series of shots at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18
months, and 4 to 6 years of age.
Under-vaccination in childhood and a decrease in immunization protection
during adolescence make these groups susceptible to catching the infection.
It's hoped that the booster vaccine will help prevent youths and adults from
spreading the disease to those most vulnerable of catching it.
Last year, nearly 19,000 whooping cough cases in adolescents and adults were
reported to the CDC. That's about 7,300 more than in 2003, according to the
study by doctors including the University of Rochester's Michael Pichichero,
The study appears in The Journal of the American Medical
Adacel Not Yet Approved
It's likely that the FDA will license Adacel sometime this month, says Sarah
Long, MD, chief of infectious diseases at St. Christopher's Hospital for
Children in Philadelphia. She is also a member of the CDC's working group on
the pertussis vaccine.
The working group will vote on recommendations for the vaccines' use in late
June, Long tells WebMD. "I would say that it's anticipated that there will
be, this year, a recommendation that young adolescents and adolescents receive
this booster," she says.
Long says the group "will not separate" the two vaccines in its
recommendations. She says Boostrix is licensed for people aged 10-18, while
Adacel is aimed at those aged 11-64.
The two drugs have different makers: GlaxoSmithKline for Boostrix and Sanofi
Pasteur for Adacel. Both drugmakers are WebMD sponsors. Pichichero's study was
sponsored by Aventis Pasteur, which is now Sanofi Pasteur.
The study included more than 4,400 people aged 11-64. The results showed
"robust immune responses" to Adacel and a safety profile similar to an
established tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccine without pertussis given every 10
years starting at the age of 10.
Young Adolescents Targeted
The anticipated guidelines will focus on youth, says Long. There are several
reasons for that. Most young adolescents (aged 11-12) and teens are still in
school, so they run the risk of catching whooping cough from their fellow
students, says Long.
Youths often see doctors for routine checkups and currently get a
diphtheria-tetanus booster shot. "This is really substitution of one
vaccine for another; this is an easy one," says Long.
But many adults don't see health care providers as regularly and aren't in
the habit of getting routine immunizations, so vaccine's risks and benefits
aren't as clear for them, she says.
Shot's Life Span Unknown
It's not known exactly how long the boosters will last, but whooping cough
protection may need to be refreshed every 10 years, says Long.
That's because whooping cough is an airway infection. "It's very hard to
protect for life against infections that are mainly in your airways," she
"We've always thought you had to boost this, but it's been very
difficult to nail pertussis," says Long, noting that the lowest number of
reported cases was in 1976, nearly 30 years ago.