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Study: Older Whooping Cough Vaccine More Effective

But it was phased out because of side effects; newer version works, study notes
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- The older vaccine for whooping cough that was phased out in the late 1990s is more effective than the current version of the vaccine, a new study contends.

Teenagers who received four shots with the older vaccine -- called whole-cell vaccine -- before they were 2 years old were significantly less likely to become infected with whooping cough during a recent outbreak in California, compared to children who received all of their immunizations with the new vaccines, called the acellular vaccine.

"Teens who were vaccinated with the acellular vaccine appear to have a six times higher risk of [whooping cough] than teens who received four doses of the whole-cell vaccine. And, the teens who received some whole-cell vaccine and some acellular had about a four times higher risk than teens who received all whole-cell vaccines," said the study's lead author, Dr. Nicola Klein, co-director of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, in Oakland.

Whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. In 2012, the United States had the highest number of whooping cough cases since 1959 with more than 41,000 infections and 18 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred among infants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The whole-cell vaccine was used from the 1940s to the 1990s, but was phased out due to potential side effects. "The reason we switched away from the whole-cell vaccine was that there were some safety concerns, such as high fevers," Klein explained.

The acellular vaccine was introduced in the 1990s, and has few side effects. However, in recent years, a number of studies have found that the newer vaccine doesn't seem to work for as long as the older vaccine.

California experienced an outbreak of whooping cough in 2010 and 2011. This gave researchers the chance to see how effective the acellular vaccine was compared to the whole-cell vaccine in teens who may have received all of their shots with one or the other vaccine, or possibly with both.

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