The vaccine against the bacterial illness pertussis, commonly known as "whooping cough," fades after just 3 years, a new, preliminary study has found.
The study was presented at the American Society for Microbiology conference, and, if the results are replicated in future research, could have consequences for how often pediatricians recommend vaccinating babies and children against pertussis.
The Associated Press reports:
The study was done in California, where whooping cough vaccinations are a hot-button issue. The state had a huge spike in whooping cough cases last year, during which more than 9,100 people fell ill and 10 babies died. California schools have turned away thousands of middle and high school students this fall who haven't gotten their booster shot.
Government health officials recommend that children get vaccinated against whooping cough in five doses, with the first shot at age 2 months and the final one between 4 and 6 years. Then youngsters are supposed to get a booster shot around 11 or 12. That means a gap of five to eight years.
Witt's study looked at roughly 15,000 children in Marin County, Calif., including 132 who got whooping cough last year. He found that youngsters who had gone three years or more since the last of their five original shots were as much as 20 times more likely to become infected than children who had been more recently vaccinated. The largest number of cases was in children 8 to 12 years old.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that in rare cases can be fatal. It leads to severe coughing that causes children to make a distinctive whooping sound as they gasp for breath.