ACIP expands recommendations for whooping cough vaccine to 65 and older

February 23, 2012

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) wants all U.S. adults to get vaccinated against whooping cough, according to the Associated Press. The panel voted to expand its recommendation to include all those aged 65 years and older who haven?t gotten a whooping cough shot as an adult.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) wants all U.S. adults to get vaccinated against whooping cough, according to the Associated Press. The panel voted to expand its recommendation to include all those aged 65 years and older who haven’t gotten a whooping cough shot as an adult.

This means now that adults should get at least 1 dose.

Children have been vaccinated against whooping cough since the 1940s, but a vaccine for adolescents and adults was not licensed until 2005.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection. Although it initially resembles an ordinary cold, whooping cough may eventually turn more serious, particularly in infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Whooping cough is most contagious before the coughing starts. The best way to prevent it is through vaccinations.

The childhood vaccine is called DTaP. The whooping cough booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is called Tdap. Both protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.

Contributing to the push to vaccinate more adults was a California whooping cough epidemic in 2010 that infected 9,000. Ten babies died after exposure to infected adults or older children.

A goal of the recommendation is to prevent teens and adults from spreading the disease to infants, although there's not good evidence this "herd immunity" approach has worked so far. Vaccination for children is included in a series of shots, beginning at 2 months.

Only about 8% of adults under age 65 years have been vaccinated, but about 70% of adolescents have.

Health officials believe whooping cough is underreported in older adults, perhaps because in older people the illness can be hard to distinguish from other coughing ailments.

The adult vaccine combines protection against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. One version of the vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was licensed for use in the elderly last year. The committee said another version, made by Sanofi Pasteur, also can be given. Both cost about $35 a dose.

The shot is as safe as a regular tetanus booster. Estimates range widely for how effective the vaccine is at preventing whooping cough in older adults, or how much its protection wanes years afterward.