Is the DTaP vaccine really necessary?
Because diphtheria has pretty much disappeared in the U.S., some people may think that getting vaccinated is no longer necessary. Not so. Unfortunately, just because diphtheria is no longer widespread here doesn't mean we're completely safe. "Someone with the disease just has to walk right into the country to cause an outbreak," says Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and American Baby magazine advisory board member. "Back in the '90s there was an outbreak of diphtheria in the Soviet Union that caused 50,000 cases in one year. It was a big reminder that this disease is still definitely around and we have to protect ourselves against it."
Whooping cough is still a potentially serious disease for babies. Unlike the other commonly vaccinated against diseases that have steadily declined over time, instances of whooping cough actually spike every five years or so. The reason: "Immunity to whooping cough wears off over time, so the disease can be very common in teens and adults," says Robert W. Sears, MD, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. "These groups can easily pass on the disease to infants, so it's important to continue protecting babies by older kids and adults continuing to get Tdap boosters."
In recent years, nearly all cases of tetanus occurred in teens and adults. But experts believe the vaccine is important for babies and young children, who are still at risk -- especially as they grow older and play outside (tetanus bacteria live in the soil).
Sources: Paul Offit, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and a member of the American Baby magazine advisory board member. Robert W. Sears, MD, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. Michael T. Brady, MD, the Vice Chair of the AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Vaccine Education Center section on DTaP Vaccination. CDC sections on DTaP Vaccination.
Copyright © 2008 Parents.com. Updated 2010
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